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Fresh row in Congress as Jairam Ramesh distances party from Manish Tewari op-ed defending Agnipath

After Tewari wrote opinion piece indefending Agnipath, Ramesh said his views were 'entirely his own & not of the party'. Congress has denounced the scheme and announced protests against it.

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New Delhi: Divisions in the Congress over the Agnipath recruitment scheme for the armed forces resurfaced Wednesday, with All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of communications Jairam Ramesh and party MP Manish Tewari slugging it out on Twitter.

Reacting to an op-ed by Tewari in The Indian Express Wednesday defending the Agnipath scheme, Ramesh distanced the party from it, saying the views were Tewari’s own and did not reflect the party’s stand. The party views the recruitment scheme as being “anti-national security & anti-youth,” Ramesh said in a tweet.

In his article, Tewari had said that the Agnipath scheme should be seen in the larger context of defence reforms, which include the appointment of a Chief of Defence Staff and the creation of joint theatre commands to promote greater synergy among the forces.

Tewari, the Lok Sabha MP for Anandpur Sahib in Punjab, said in response to Ramesh’s tweet that the article’s tag line had made it clear that the views expressed were personal, and that he wished Ramesh had read till the end. 

The Agnipath scheme envisions recruiting soldiers between 17.5 and 21 for a period of four years, at the end of which only 25 per cent of each batch will be retained for regular service.

The policy, announced earlier this month, was met with widespread protests across India — many of which turned violent — led by armed forces aspirants now deprived of a long-term career option. Military veterans also criticised the scheme for reasons such as the high turnover of personnel in units and the progressively decreasing number of experienced soldiers it will lead to. 

Also Read: How Tour of Duty pilot project became Agnipath, a journey of 254 meetings lasting 750 hours

At odds with Congress

Tewari’s opinion piece Wednesday said that the Agnipath policy would help in “right-sizing” the armed forces, with advanced militaries such as those of the US and China reforming to have a lighter human footprint coupled with cutting-edge technology to prepare for fifth-generation warfare.

This is in contrast to the Congress’s view of the policy thus far. The party has publicly denounced the scheme and announced protests against it. 

This isn’t the first time that Tewari finds himself at odds with the party — he was  among the “G-23 leaders” who wrote a letter to interim president Sonia Gandhi in 2020 seeking sweeping changes in the party. 

In November 2021, he publicly criticised the Congress for allegedly having missed a “fundamental point” in the ‘Hinduism vs Hindutva’ debate — of religious identity not being the basis for politics.

The following month, Tewari wrote in his book that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance should have taken much sterner action against Pakistan after the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks. 

In February this year, Tewari’s tweet on the exit of former Union minister Ashwani Kumar from the Congress said: “If I speak then it is perceived as rebellion, If I keep quiet, I become helpless”.

A day later, when asked about his differences with the Congress, he said that he wasn’t a “tenant” but a partner in the party. He also said that he would not quit the party, on his own, “but if someone wants to push me out, that’s a different thing”. 

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)

Also Read: Agnipath is directed correctly. But Modi govt needs Amit Shah to budge


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