Defence minister Manohar Parrikar has written to West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who had objected to the presence of Indian Army at toll booths on national highways in the state, saying dragging the military into a controversy will hurt its morale.
In the letter, Parrikar said that while political parties and politicians may have the luxury of making “wild and unsubstantiated allegations against each other”, one needs to be extremely careful while referring to the armed forces.
“Your allegations in this regard run the risk of adversely impacting the morale of the country’s armed forces and the same were not expected from a person of your standing and experience in public life,” the minister said.
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's letter to WB CM Mamata Banerjee, expresses pain over dragging the Army into controversy pic.twitter.com/LVAsdoscsl— ANI (@ANI_news) December 9, 2016
Senior Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien said that the chief minister has not received Parrikar’s letter and it has already been leaked to the media.
“We will give a befitting reply when it comes,” O’Brien told ANI.
The presence of the army on a crucial Kolkata bridge last week sparked a political fight with the Trinamool Congress alleging the Centre was arm-twisting the state and the BJP blaming Banerjee of politicising a regular military action.
The war of words followed a night of drama after Banerjee refused to step out of the state secretariat Nabanna to protest against the “sudden deployment” of the army in the area.
Terming it as “avoidable controversy” over the exercise carried out by the Eastern Command in West Bengal and other states under the jurisdiction to collect information about the movement of heavy vehicles at toll gates, Parrikar, in his letter to Banerjee dated December 8, said it is carried out by all formations of the army all across the country for many years.
He said the exercises are held as per the dates convenient to the army in consultation with agencies of the state government.
“I have been deeply pained by your allegations as reported in the media. If only you had enquired with the agencies concerned of the state government, you would have come to know of the extensive correspondence between the Army and the state agencies including the joint inspection of sites carried out by them,” Parrikar said in his letter to Banerjee.
Describing Indian army as the “most disciplined institution of the country”, he said the nation is proud of their “professionalism and apolitical conduct”.
He added that the army authorities were forced to put the record straight in the matter by presenting evidence of their communication with the state agencies concerned including rescheduling of the data collection operations on their response.
Parrikar had told the Lok Sabha that the army was conducting a routine exercise in Kolkata. The Eastern Command showed papers detailing the correspondence between the army and the local police on the issue and said the state government and the police knew about it in advance.
(With inputs from PTI and ANI)