A government order regarding a “yatra” to be organised across the country involving senior bureaucrats to showcase the achievements of nine years of the BJP government triggered a political firestorm Sunday with Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi questioning the move and calling it a “gross misuse of government machinery.”
He also took objection to an earlier order of the Defence Ministry, directing soldiers on annual leave to spend time to promote government schemes, making them “soldier-ambassadors.”
“In both cases, of civil servants and soldiers, it is essential that government machinery is kept out of politics, especially so in the months leading up to an election,” he said in the letter and demanded that the orders be withdrawn immediately “for protecting our democracy and our Constitution.”
Kharge’s letter came a day after Congress media department head Pawan Khera shared on X an order dated October 18 of the Department of Revenue in the Finance Ministry regarding the nomination of officers of the ranks of joint secretary, director and deputy secretary pertaining to various services to be deployed as ‘rath prabhari’ (special officers) in each of the 765 districts in the country, covering 2.69 lakh gram panchayats.
The order mentioned an internal order of the agriculture secretary of October 14 regarding showcasing or celebrating the achievements of the last nine years of the Modi government through the ‘Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra’ proposed to be organised across the country for disseminating information, awareness and extending services at the gram panchayat level from November 20 to January 25.
Calling it a “matter of great public importance which is of concern not just to the INDIA parties but also to people at large,” Kharge said the order was a “gross misuse of government machinery….in service of the ruling political party.”
“It is a clear violation of the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, which directs that no government servant shall take part in any political activity. While it is acceptable for government officers to disseminate information, to make them “celebrate” and “showcase” achievements blatantly turns them into political workers of the ruling party. The fact that only “achievements” of the last 9 years are being considered, gives away the fact that this is a transparently political order in the run-up to the five state elections and the general elections of 2024,” he wrote.
“If senior officers of departments are being deputed for marketing activity of the current government, the governance of our country will grind to a halt for the next six months,” he added.
Regarding the earlier October 9 order of the Ministry of Defence, he said, “The Army Training Command, which should be focused on preparing our jawans to defend the nation, is busy preparing scripts and training manuals on how to promote government schemes.”
“It is of utmost importance in a democracy that the Armed Forces are kept out of politics. The loyalty of every jawan is to the nation and to the Constitution. To force our soldiers to become marketing agents of government schemes is a dangerous step towards politicisation of the Armed Forces,” he said.
Moreover, he said, “After many months or years of difficult service to our nation, our jawans deserve complete freedom on their annual leave, to spend time with their families and restore energy for continued service”. Their leave, he said, must not be hijacked for political purposes.
Attacking the government, he said the Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax Department and the CBI are already “acting as election departments of the BJP, the orders mentioned above put the entire government machinery to work as if they are agents of the ruling party.”
“All agencies, institutions, arms, wings, and departments are now officially ‘Pracharaks’….In view of protecting our democracy and our Constitution, it is imperative that the…orders are withdrawn immediately,” he said.