Gandhi , according to people familiar with the proceedings, expressed an opinion that such matters were best left for the forces to discuss and suggested that the panel focus on more substantive issues.(PTI File Photo)
Gandhi , according to people familiar with the proceedings, expressed an opinion that such matters were best left for the forces to discuss and suggested that the panel focus on more substantive issues.(PTI File Photo)

Discussion on uniforms and ranks: Rahul Gandhi walks out of House panel meeting

Rahul Gandhi had been asking for a discussion on the border standoff with China for some time now and was disappointed that the committee, instead of taking that up as an agenda was discussing something else.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By Sunetra Choudhury
UPDATED ON DEC 17, 2020 04:10 AM IST

Congress Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi and his colleagues walked out of a Parliamentary standing committee meeting on defence on Wednesday, saying they were not allowed to speak during a discussion on uniforms and ranks.

Gandhi , according to people familiar with the proceedings, expressed an opinion that such matters were best left for the forces to discuss and suggested that the panel focus on more substantive issues. At this point, the people said, the chairman of the panel, Jual Oram asked Gandhi to stick to the agenda of the day , listed as ``an introduction to the rank, structure of the Defence forces including their uniforms, stars and badges, and review of working of cantonment boards.’’

The meeting was attended by Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat, Army Vice Chief Satinder Kumar Saini and Defence Secretary Arun Kumar. According to some of the members who attended the meeting and spoke to Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity, Rajya Sabha member Lt Gen (retired) DP Vats was asking the officers why the Indian defence establishment couldn’t have a uniform rank system, that is same designations in the Army, Navy and Air Force like the US does in its three services.

Gandhi, according to a BJP MP and a Congress MP, responded by saying the forces were the best judge of this and that suggesting otherwise was an insult to the senior defence officers present at the meeting. The Congress MP added that Gandhi had been asking for a discussion on the border standoff with China for some time now and was disappointed that the committee, instead of taking that up as an agenda was discussing something else. The BJP MP claimed that Gandhi came late for the meeting and was absent in a previous committee hearing when it was decided that MPs needed a briefing to familiarise themselves with the ranks of the forces and how to differentiate between them.

Chairman Oram is believed to have told Gandhi to allow the members ask questions and voice their opinions on the scheduled topic, but according to the prople cited above, Congress MP Rajeev Satav, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut and a few others asked that Gandhi be allowed to speak his mind.

When this request was denied, Gandhi and two other Congress MPs, Satav and Anumula Revanth Reddy, walked out. The people cited above said Gen Rawat and the other officers were silent throughout these proceedings which lasted about 45 minutes.

BJP MP Pratap Simha who was present at the meeting said that Gandhi’s actions didn’t convey his respect for the forces.If he has so much respect for the forces then why did he meet the Chinese ambassador at the height of the Doklam standoff?’’

HIS reference was to a july 2017 meeting between Gandhi and Ambassador Luo Zhaohui at a time when Indian and Chinese forces were locked in a weeks-long standoff at the Doklam trijunction area near Bhutan. The Congress’ explanation at the time was that it was to be briefed on bilateral issues and he had also met with former NSA Shivshankar Menon. Gandhi himself had tweeted that it was his job to be informed on critical issues and he had also met with the Bhutan ambassador.

General Vats told HT that the subject being discussed was an important one . “I doubt Rahul Gandhi will be able to distinguish between one rank and another,” he added.

Oram declined comment.

A defence officer familiar with the proceedings said that India follows the British system where the three services have their own ranks and uniforms. There is no plan to change this, the officer added on condition of anonymity.

“What Rahulji said is absolutely right. When India is faced with an unprecedented crisis at the LAC border, the parliamentary standing committee is discussing ranks and uniforms of armed forces! Instead of discussing ways to better prepare our forces logistically in these challenging times, the committee chooses to spend time on matters that should only concern the Armed Forces. The main issue is that BJP leverages India’s defence forces for political gains and wants to escape accountability to people’s representatives on issues of national importance,’’ said Satav.

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