Yogi Adityanath's remark dubbing the Indian Army as "Modi ji ki sena" (Modi's army) during an election campaign for the BJP created a political firestorm on Monday with the opposition leaders attacking the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister for "insulting and humiliating" the force.
Amidst the opposition attack on Adityanath for his remark, the Election Commission has also asked the district magistrate of Ghaziabad to submit a report so that it can be checked whether there was any violation of Model Code of Conduct as it has already asked political parties to "desist" during their Lok Sabha poll campaigns from indulging in any propaganda involving defence forces.
Hitting out at opposition parties over a host of governance issues during a rally on Sunday, Adityanath, while campaigning for sitting MP and Union minister VK Singh in Ghaziabad, said what was "impossible" for the Congress, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party is possible under the BJP rule.
"Congress ke log aatankwadiyon ko biryani khilate the aur Modi ji ki sena aatankwadiyon ko goli aur gola deti hai (Congress people would feed biryani to terrorists, while Modi's army gives them bullet or bomb). This is the difference. The Congress people use 'ji' in Masood Azhar's name to encourage terrorism," he said.
These comments left the Opposition up in arms with the Congress saying,"Adityanath's usurpation of Army's valour by calling it 'Modi's Army' is an insult to our martyrs as also to the valour and sacrifices of our bravehearts" and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee expressing "shock".
CPI leader D Raja said also condemned Adityanath's remarks.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala termed the remarks as a "flagrant violation" of the institution of the Election Commission.
"From the Prime Minister to Chief Minister, they are trampling upon the mandate of the country, fearing imminent defeat in 2019 elections. Adityanath is a zero performance chief minister. That's why he has to hide behind the sacrifices and valour of our armed forces to even face the people. He is guilty of the death of nearly 400 children, majority being in his own Parliamentary constituency and protecting people accused of rape like BJP MLA Kuldeep Senger," Surjewala alleged.
He also added,"Zero performance, zero delivery and zero result awaits them on the day of Lok Sabha polls".
Reacting sharply, Banerjee, who has been trying to cobble up an united opposition alliance against the BJP, said,"It is shocking to hear the UP CM saying that the Indian Army is the 'Modi Sena'. Such blatant personalisation and usurping of our beloved Indian Army is an insult and a humiliation."
She further tweeted, "We are proud of our Army. They belong to all. They are a great asset of our nation, and not a cassette of the BJP. People of this country must stand up and reject this statement."
Describing the Uttar Pradesh chief minister's comments "highly condemnable", Raja said, "this is a clear way of intimidating the voters and creating a fear psychosis in their minds. How can the defence forces belong to one political party. It is the Indian defence forces. How is it Modi's army? Basically the BJP is so desperate that now they have forgotten farmers issues and their achievement over the last five years and are now resorting to politicising the defence forces, dragging them through controversy for their political gains.""
The CPI leader also demanded that the EC should take disciplinary action against Adityanath.
Meanwhile, taking cognizance of Adityanath's speech, the EC has asked the district magistrate of Ghaziabad to submit a report in the matter to the office of chief electoral officer of Uttar Pradesh.
Apart from angry reactions from opposition leaders, the chief minister's remarks are also not gone down well with the military with sources indicating that it was "upset".
Former Navy chief Admiral L Ramdas also said he was "upset" over the Uttar Pradesh chief minister's remarks.
"The armed forces do not belong to any individual, but to the nation and he will approach the EC over the remarks made by the BJP leader".
Lt Gen (retd) H S Panag also said,"such comments lead to the politicisation of the Army."