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.
Manish Tewari, INC MP, has written an article on Agnipath. While @INCIndia is the only democratic party, it must be said his views are entirely his own & not of the party, which firmly believes Agnipath is anti-national security & anti-youth, bulldozed through without discussion.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) June 29, 2022
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 tag line of the article does say – The views are personal. I wish @Jairam_Ramesh ji would have read it right till the very end .
He may see it here now ?? https://t.co/eiogYdeKVp pic.twitter.com/qAFqI41AUx
— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) June 29, 2022
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.
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.
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)