New Delhi | Congress president Rahul Gandhi Saturday told a group of former military officials that his party would fulfill all the commitments it had made on the ‘one rank, one pension’ issue if voted to power. He had a 30-minute-long meeting with the retired defence personnel at the AICC headquarters here.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, Gandhi also said the ex-servicemen had told him that One Rank, One Pension (OROP) had not been implemented properly. He told the ex-servicemen that he “stood in solidarity” with their struggle, and that if his party is voted to power in the 2019 parliamentary election, it will “fulfil all the commitments” the Congress had made on the OROP issue.
“We had a very constructive meeting. Couple of things came up, the OROP issue came up and the ex-serviceman clearly said that OROP has not been implemented by the prime minister,” Gandhi said. He said the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the wrong and non-strategic approach of the government were brought up by the ex-servicemen during the meeting.
The Rafale deal issue also came up, and all these things are connected, Gandhi said. “The connection is that Rs 30,000 crore can be given to Anil Ambani for doing nothing but our soldiers can’t be given OROP. This is the connection. And, the amount of Rs 30,000 crore is more than enough to solve the OROP issue,” he told reporters. The government has been strongly rejecting all allegations levelled against it in connection with the Rafale deal.
Gandhi later also tweeted about the meeting, as he sought to highlight the multiple issues, in an attempt to the corner the BJP. “For Anil 30,000 CR from Rafale + all procedures bypassed + midnight sacking of CBI director. For Forces No OROP + sound thrashing to veterans at Jantar Mantar + lies and broken promises (sic),” he tweeted.
The Congress has alleged that the Anil Ambani-led company was favoured by the Modi government on the offset contract of the French fighter jet deal. The private firm, however, has denied the allegations. The meeting was also attended by former defence minister A K Antony, AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and several retired senior officials of the defence forces.
Gandhi training his guns again on the government over the Rafale issue, alleged that a company which has never built an aircraft and under a debt of Rs 45,000 cr has been “gifted Rs 30,000 cr by the prime minister”. “But, people from the Army, the Air Force, who protect the country every day, their money has been snatched away,” he said.
Major General (retired) Satbir Singh, who has been spearheading the agitation for implementation of the OROP ( ‘one rank, one pension’) told reporters after the meet that they have appealed to Gandhi to take up the issues with the government, as the Congress is the principal opposition party. “We are soldiers and we are on the streets. We feel humiliated. We demand that the Army’s dignity be restored as it was on August 15, 1947,” Singh said.
Gandhi said he “felt sad” to see these ex-servicemen expressing “dejection and the humiliation” they feel.”They may not tell you openly but in the meeting it came out,” he said.
Gehlot also tweeted on the meeting and shared the views expressed by some of the members, who participated in the meet, and also shared pictures of the interaction. “Rafale deal by NDA is in complete violation of Defence Procurement Procedure(DPP) para 28, 80, 104-105 : Ex-serviceman of the Indian Army,” he tweeted.
Earlier, during the meeting, Satbir Singh said the veterans were “very concerned and anguished over the OROP issue”. “Unfortunately, it has been 1,231 days of struggle, and we haven’t got an acknowledgement of the letters sent to the prime minister, the last one being sent five days ago, he alleged during the meeting.
He said the ex-servicemen were promised implementation of ‘one rank, one pension’ but it is nowhere close to that. “We request to you as the president of the principal opposition party to take up these issues with all the might, along with other parties,” Singh said.
Among other issues raised, he also proposed constitution of a commission for ex-servicemen, headed by an ex-servicemen.
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