Headed by former Congress minister Major Vijay Singh Mankotia, the Himachal chapter of the Indian Ex-services League is likely to boycott the meeting All-India Congress Committee vice-president Rahul Gandhi has scheduled with ex-armymen in Kangra before his Dharamsala rally on March 20, as Mankotia, who fought a long battle for the ‘One Rank, One Pension’ scheme, has not been invited for the meeting, leading to resentment among the ex- servicemen.
“I am being constantly ignored and marginalised in the party. My comrades know I have fought a long battle for the scheme within and outside the state, vigorously taking up the matter with the Centre time and again,” alleged a disgruntled Mankotia.
“We will wait till Wednesday for the invitation, but if it is not received, the IEL, which is the largest group of former army personnel in the state, will boycott the meeting,” said Mankotia.
He added that if the party continued to ignore the ex-servicemen and their leaders, the League would take further action in context of the upcoming elections.
Terming the announcement of the “One Rank, One Pension” scheme in the interim budget a “mere poll gimmick”, Mankotia alleged that the UPA government had handed a “lollipop” to the ex- servicemen fraternity.
“This was a vote-on-account budget meant to meet the daily expenditure on routine items,” said Mankotia, adding that according to the Constitution, the government could not spend any more money without the approval of the Parliament.
“The government transferred `500 crore to the defence pension account for the implementation of the scheme, while the annual liability comes to `2,000 crore, if it is implemented,” said Mankotia, adding that it was “merely an election sop to woo the soldiers”.
He said the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narender Modi’s rally at Rewari, which was attended by former army chief VK Singh and attracted more than 5 lakh ex-servicemen, and later, a programme for soldiers at Mumbai, prompted the UPA to make the announcement.
“Now Rahul Gandhi is claiming the credit for having pushed for the ex-servicemen’s demands,” said Mankotia.