They are fighting for their country but on the political battlefield.
A group of retired armymen have come together with the ambition to change Indian politics. Their party, the Rashtriya Raksha Dal, aims to improve lives of villagers, the downtrodden and the socially disadvantaged.
Registered in 1999, the party concentrated on Punjab for a while. This year, it has fielded 10 candidates in five states for the Lok Sabha election.
“We decided to take up the cause of improving rural life because most of the population resides in the villages, but they are neglected. Politicians visit villages only during elections and then forget them,” said Colonel M S Krishnamoorty, a 90-year-old World War-II veteran and a core party member.
“If we improve life in rural areas, it will also address several problems like migration,” he said.
The party believes it can bring about a positive change because, according to the party members, army officers are well-educated, patriotic and self-sacrificing, and they always put the country before themselves. “We will also enlist members of the defense forces who are young and educated. These are the kind of people needed to lead and will attract the youth,” said Colonel Satish Dewan, the party coordinator.
Rather than a manifesto, the party prefers to call its agenda “a broad spectrum view”. Along with developmental issues and employment, defence and national security also figure on the agenda.
“There is an urgent need to check terrorism. Defence personnel must be given their former status and respect and the rural population needs to be educated on keeping a watchful eye,” said Krishnamoorty.
Instead of having a reservation system, the party plans to create a specially tailored education system for the socially weaker sections. Women’s issues and their health are also on the agenda. “We want to encourage ayurveda and the planting of medicinal plants,” Krishnamoorty said.
Considering that corruption does not spare even the defense forces, how does the party plan to ensure they don’t fall into the same trap? “We have devised a recall system,” said Colonel Krishnamoorty. “The moment a worker is found guilty of corruption, he would be made to file his resignation.”