The politicization of the last bastion of India is well and truly underway. The beeline of Armed Forces officers in joining a political party is just the latest milestone in this journey. More will follow. That will be to the detriment of national security, in the short run. Very definitely. In the long run. It is debatable since the nation is into uncharted oceans. At the outset I must state, that this is an apolitical analysis of a symptom for which I do not have answers.
There is a view that unless Service Officers join the political platform, there will be no redressal of the imbalances our Services and nation face. That is agreed to. However, for that to happen, induction of retired service personnel into politics must be across the political spectrum and not confined to one party alone. If it is only one party which is attracting Ex Servicemen, then there are a lot of questions and soul searching to do. The system will get even more imbalanced.  Another moot point is that how much of a political career or influence will a retired General have in the party he joins? In my estimate unless he has a previous political background/environment, he will be a wall flower. At best he will be given a gubernatorial or other post of decorative insignificance. If he thinks he is going to clean up the system, he must re-think. Most of them were incapable of even equipping the armed forces when in service due to their over simplicity. In the brutal world of politics, I wonder how they will survive rubbing shoulders with outright criminals.  The issue merits deeper examination.
They say when you want to subvert a system start at the top. That is what has been done to politicize the Armed Forces. And it started, very deliberately some time back. Appointments of senior officers were based on a very strict rule of seniority and residual service. By tradition and sensibility this was a citadel that was never violated.  It was the Indian Army which gave an opening.   A new factor of “suitability” was induced through “discretion” of the short-sighted Army hierarchy to appoint one SO in C to break the “seniority” rule. Accepted by the Government. A precedence was created. A politico- bureaucratic handle was also created to tweak “seniority” with “suitability”. At that time itself, I was apprehensive of the long-term impact and I did express it to some of my friends.  I was advised that discretion is the better part of valor. I kept quiet. Later, a new factor of “continuity” was brought in by the now politicized hierarchy to appoint a DG Arty. Accepted by the Government. Another precedence created. The handle now was to tweak the “residual service” clause with “continuity”.  A combination of “suitability” and “continuity” was now used with political discretion to appoint a COAS by superseding a senior. Of course, this was buttressed by a few earlier cases of supercession long back. Politicization of the top ranks and appointments is now becoming routine with an officer not being appointed as an Army Commander and an FOC in C who is knocking on legal doors at being superseded. One might argue that these officers were not suitable for the higher posts. However, from what appears in public domain, they were not even fit for the ranks and posts they are holding. From here on politicization in senior appointments will only grow. That is a dangerous trend. I have no issue or quarrel with the capabilities of either class of officers. The appointed officers were not inferior, or the superseded officers were not superior. At that level all are almost equal. I have known the entire lot from very young days, and each are as capable as the other. They are good guys and have done well. However, there is no evidence to suggest that those appointed officers are doing things better in the absence of others not having a chance to perform. Overall the system has been incrementally violated to its own detriment. The taste is bitter.
The next step in politicization is dangerous and is happening. It is in the realm of promotions. Hitherto fore, promotions were based on merit to a very large extent. That is being heavily and slyly undercut. I recently met a newly promoted officer who came to me for advice. I advised him to seek a posting to an operational area to get good experience so that he could be better equipped to handle challenges of higher ranks. He looked at me as if I am an outdated old fool. He astounded me by saying that with the spate of politically motivated supercessions in senior appointments it was better to be in Delhi to be visible not only to seniors but also to the bureaucratic and political hierarchy. That would ensure both promotion and appointment. His logic was that senior appointments were any way political. Accordingly, promotion can be ensured through politically pliant seniors. Getting into good appointments was only a political extension. This strikes at the root of the professional competency of the Armed Forces. We cannot have a leadership in the Armed forces which is incompetent and politicized.  It represents a danger to our nation far beyond the normal. Or, am I being out of sync with society?
The third step to politicization is what is now being played out in the public sphere. When senior officers at the end of illustrious careers join politics en-mass, it makes one wonder whether this was a move due to a deep-rooted political conviction and leaning or a new found desire at extending and enhancing their careers. If it was a deep-rooted conviction and leaning, then it is clearly political infiltration by a party to prove that it is the only nationalist one in town. That just complicates issues. For every officer who joins a party out of deep-rooted leanings there would be more who were and will remain supporters but not take the political plunge. We cannot have politics being played out in units and formations. We cannot have decisions being taken in South Block with the lure of a post retirement political plums.  That is a very dangerous kind of a situation and must be curbed institutionally by those in Service. The problem will be that, if people in service are political, are they willing to do so?  Of course, there is also an issue of political subservience while in service to the detriment of the Armed Forces as an Institution of the nation. We saw this being played out during the OROP agitation when veterans were being caned by Police. The muteness and ineptitude of the Army hierarchy when this national disgrace was happening will now be explained in Seychelles? That incident will remain the biggest blot in our service histories. It is unprecedented in any country under any circumstances. 
If joining a political party is to extend their careers or take the plunge to cleanse the system, it is ok to a certain extent. However, there are dangers in that too. As these political Generals achieve some power in the political system, they will tend to dispense favor to those juniors with whom they have served, their regimental buddies and so on. It is a largesse cum vote bank phenomenon. By doing so they will ignite aspirational behavior amongst servicemen. They were role models in service, and they will be different role models now. However, as time passes, these political servicemen will veer away from the reality of service and start compromising with the reality of politics. All the best to them. They must make a choice. They should decide whether they are serving the nation as defined by one political party or are retired Generals of Indian Armed Forces. They cannot be both. One is on a high pedestal and the other is not. Also, it will be wrong on their part to attend political events with their regimental insignia or ranks worn anywhere. That is politicization of the Armed Forces. An argument can be made against this line of thought, but I consider it as a moral issue, and I hold firm.

This brings me to a moot point. Why is this happening? It is happening to a large extent because Service officers and men, in service or outside it, feel that they are being left out of the national loop in policy and decision making. However, they are expected to execute, someone’s decision, without demur in an under prepared and ill-equipped manner. These decision makers have no face, no accountability and no responsibility. As time goes by, this will be a condition which will be less acceptable to the Serviceman. He can not change his constitutional position of being under civilian control. Hence, he is changing his societal role of being apolitical by embracing politics. If this trend and the dangers it represents is to be reversed, we need to channelize the force within the Servicemen to something more constructive by (a) giving him a role in decision making and (b) tapping the vast potential he has when he retires. In a nation which has criminals as its leaders and fraudsters as its businessmen we need a whole lot of honest tested and tried Indians in post-retirement public service for national benefit.
I have put across a dimension of issues involved in politicization of the Armed Forces. There could be many more and I will be only too happy to debate it out with those who have taken the political plunge, those who intend to do so and those like me who wish to remain apolitical. I also wish to state that there will be a set of nationalists who will feel that they are the only ones and will decry what I have put across. I wish to remind them, that nationalism has many hues and is not only in one color and that too their color. Also, after four decades in uniform, I will not need lectures on patriotism to my Country. There will also be barbs at me to say that I have political aspirations. My reply to them would be – I aspire for a better India which is great and nothing more. Part of that is to depoliticize the Armed forces. 
Finally, I cannot but comment that the recent mass induction of senior armed forces officers into a party appeared to me like a mass wedding of below poverty line couples. Notwithstanding that, I wish them all the best. May their wishes and dreams come true but not at the expense of all their former compatriots who are in uniform or outside.


  1. The moot question you are asking is” whether the induction of a few retired personnel of the Armed Forces into political process will benefit the Governance or harm the National Security ?

  2. As usual salvo on target. Very valid views.

  3. Either way given there preoccupation for gubernatorial posts yet nffu will be denied as done since 2006, as if they never became two three starred by of political acquaintances.talking about virtues and missing out on essence like nffu, enhanced MSP etc is shallow sighted narrow mindedness

  4. Senior officers of all defence forces,should be vociferously enough to address all issues pertaining to armd forces and retired defence forces

  5. A very well analysed article put across in a frank and forthright manner..the Defence Services must continue to remain apolitical, while in Service or as Veterans..those joining politics on the argument that they will now look after the interests of the uniformed community are only fooling themselves..they will have no say and are going to be used as pawns by the fraudsters and criminals..while in Service, the uniformed fraternity has to demonstrate it's loyalty to the Services.. unfortunately, this loyalty and commitment has been replaced by cutthroats and selfish ascenders..the politico bureaucratic Nexus has exploited the Services by divide and rule policy..the Services are to be blamed for the pathetic state they are in today and have none to blame except themselves..they bent and's time for setting ones own house in order by acknowledgement and acceptance of the malaise within, carry out reflection and introspection and build up the esprit de corps..learn to hear the conscience within before sorting out things beyond their control..the respect has to come from within before being respected by others..ajb

  6. Either you enjoy retired life as retired Fauji, or if wish to do something, then certainly need to join something and anything outside is politics or connected to it . Choice is yours

  7. This is horrendous thought process and praises thereof. How has the armed forces been politicised? If your PM mentions you in a positive light is it politicisation? Then your analysis is not apolitical at all. Secondly, after retirement donot hold these free thinking people captive to your slavish attitude or lack of energy for free thinking. I applaud these people joining politics to expand the possibilities.

  8. You have raised s plethora of issues under one umbrella – “polticising the Armed forces:1. Favouritism by the ruling party in selection for appointment to higher echelons of the Armed Forces.2. Incompetence of thod such favoured3. Lack of professionalism in our officers at senior management levels.4. Ignoring by political decision makers of real issues faced by the Armed corces.5. Inability of our Senior officers at Armed Forces headquarters to buck the bureaucracy.6.Gradual whittling away of status of Armed Forces vis a vis their civilian counterparts.7. Aspirations, justified or otherwise of veterans to contribute to nation building.8. Changing contours of the practice of politics itself over the last few decades.In other words, these are complex and interconnected issues, and cannot have simplistic solutionsSo where do we go from here?I feel that as General McCarthur is believed to have stated to have said in another context, ” I have seen the enemy. And the enemy is within”.We need to set our own house in order first.Set right our selection and training policies at lower levels – far from the influence of the mandarins at MOD.Refrain from succumbing to the perks and pleasures of office at higher levels.Democratise the forces within the constraints of the regimental system.Encourage interaction between the Services and the beneficiaries thereof, namely the public at large, so that each knows how the other half lives.Today, we literally live in cocoons both socially and professionally. This gives rise to avoidable envy and mistrust between the two.As my commanding officer on board a submarine (later, Chief if Naval Staff) used to say, we were born as civilians and we will die as civilians. Our sojourn in uniform only places a greater sense of duty and responsibility on us.As usual, you have stirred up a thought process.Would be delghted to hear other views.Commodore Shekhar

  9. Under Question mark is motive of people joining politics ? Self Service or national service ? Their immense capabilities will be used in the interest of the nation or self interest ? They will be ambassadors of Armed forces, if they stoop down low in dirty game of politics they will disgrace the honour of Armed forces. Jai Hind

  10. A very hard hitting article coming from a person whose personal integrity has always been above reproach.I especially like where u say that it appears to be a mass wedding of below poverty lines, my fear is lest they land up being ghodi/band /light wallahs for the political masters or may be the coin snatchers of a typical big fat Punjabi wedding..Naresh

  11. Government servants should not be allowed to join political parties after retirement, unless they give up their designation and also forfiet their pension.

  12. Fully agree with you. If Armed Forces have to improve upon present pathatic situation, they must remain politically aware, and should not be curbed from joining after retirement. When number builds up the presence of ESMs in politics would make a difference, if not now.

  13. Could you give any reasoning for what you said plz?

  14. Apropos views of Shankar R the only comment it deserves is that it is not an unbiased and totally an apolitical view. It is ridiculous to brand all those joining BJP as power/ fame hungry or gullible lot. As a responsible citizen of nation we all are not only responsible but also duty bound to do our bit for the betterment of society/Nation. All those thinking politics as touch me not, must understand that there is politics in every sfare of life and do your best you can not remain untouched by it. I feel this article has been written either to scare Offrs joining BJP or to create a falls narrative in the public domain that BJP is politicizing Armed Forces.Col RKTripathi

  15. Civilians have become powerful compared to Armed Forces due to their closeness with Political system and get whatever they want like pay perks promotion but otherside Armed Forces continue getting marginalized in all aspect pay ,promotion, perks and status wise in compare to civilians.The so called attitude that we will do it at any cost developed a system where a service officers keeps running with a file to get it approved from MOD lower rung babus as he has to prove his boss that he can manage.I have seen in MOD how senior service officials LIKE AVM get humiliated by lower rung babus .Sad but true butnobody takes stand.If someone takes stand then things will change as on many occassions I have seen babus accepted service proposal when the particular officer took stand .Chane will come only seniors will change their attitude and ready to forget personal gain .Difficult to matterlise.

  16. Retired people joining politics shows that they still have energy to contribute to nation building and feel for the nation . It is natural for a human to be recognised by others . Remember moslow theory ??? . Rest is all relative as all of us are cuvillians at birth and it's a small or I would say a phase of 30 to 40 percent which is in uniform and off course shapes our personality . Services get noticed because of it's emotive connect with security being threatened as services are seen to be the last baton enabling cuvillians enjoy the perks of an otherwise peaceful co existance

  17. This blog raises a flag about a new trend. What I do know and am convinced is the need fur the armed forces to learn to engage with the political and administrative machinery of the country. Our training and ethos does not permit this while in service – this also needs a relook. I repeat – the key word is ENGAGE – not to be confused with indulge.

  18. The author when in service would have deprived others of privileges and perks ..that typical mindset..wherein on some pretext a rule is quoted…now that's how due to such officers services feel deprived.Now after retirement also he is not at peace and having a problem with others who wish to grow and try in politics… and when they are free to do so.This is the tendency to judge on so called ethos and stuff that prevent anyone from trying to do something for himself. Vikrant D

  19. Sir Frank, to the point & candid as you have always been.

  20. This is the basic problem of third world countries or security of futureWe all after hanging out boots come out with excellent solution but during our innings whatever rank we may be we remain subservant of our interest to rise high It has been / heard means donor justify the results.One of Naval Chief was shown the door by Def Minister purely due to Army Act No senior officer has got courage to talk of removal of this Act as it was designed by British Rulers to deal with Natives Army Jai Hind

  21. Like the term 'secular' in our constitution, the term 'apolitical' as applicable to Armed Forces, needs to be defined clearly, and understood. Difference between being 'apolitical' and being victim of 'political interference' needs to be understood. Being apolitical, as I understand, implies execution of duties / tasks without any leanings towards any political outfit. That is already ensured by the defined hierarchy wherein, except for the highest echelons, executive orders are kept well outside the influence of political bodies, unlike police. It is political interference that is troubling the Armed Forces as it enables the politicians to place such cdrs in highest echelons who can further their political goals. As regards ESM joining politics, it is the only way to sort out bureaucratic ' up manship', BUT, that would be possible only if/ when they rise to relevant posts in the heirarchy, till then they serve as 'wall flowers'. That elevation will again be decided by the politician only. Has any difference been made by two Armed Forces members serving as ministers in a 'majboot sarkar'?

  22. I tend to agree … It's for the Top Echleons to hedge political interference the rank & file is well isolated from direct interference !!!

  23. If the veterans can form a political party they can bring a new hope to our current polity.They can contribute by dedicating their efforts to alleviation of corruption bottom to top, education and physical well being of young generation.They can be then really a party with difference the like of which new India desires to have but in absence of one tends to gravitate towards BJP.General Shankar will not have to put retired after his nameIf he becomes politically active and would not mind to prefix his rank to his name too.He and persons like him can be true leaders as a General never retires.The country needs some one like Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose in politics to day to bring back respect to the word politics that it deserves.

  24. Sir, as a junior officer who has served in the valley your article comes out as pretty political in itself. You forget that Lt Gen DS Hooda joined the Congress. Congress manifesto – AFSPA be removed, that sedition law be removed and that Kashmir be handed over to Pakistan. I am sorry this is clearly ANTI NATIONAL. You also forget that Gen Panag is in AAP and openly talks of 'Inquilab' and overthrowing the elected govt of India. AAP also talks of AFSA being removed, Baharat tere Tukde Tukde honge. So you cannot say that generals have not joined across the spectrum. The rest of the spectrum which you so strongly support is indeed anti national.

  25. Hai, thanks for your blog. If any body want to develop your political skills, political career path, consulting services for your political party, I think should visit our website.Best political party to join in indiaBest Political Election Campaign Management Company in Indiapolitical digital marketing agency

  26. Frank and very well analysed article. Kudos Sir. After Command of troops it's belittling.

  27. I am a Veteran. I dare say that service men are generally apolitical as this has been imbibed from the time of joining the Armed Forces. We are not politically savvy nor are we trained to administer the country. This is not to say that many current politicians and bureaucrats are the best to run a country. There have been very few Service officers who climbed the political ladder and performed well after joining it. I agree with the author the present top leadership has showed signs of ‘chamchagiri’. That is going to harm our professional competence and commitment to our role if not arrested. Politicians in power from both major parties are to blame.

  28. Sorry, Unknown of 29 Apr and Raghu of 30 Apr, beg to differ. You must be joking! You seriously think a strong and 'no nonsense' chief or senior offr will be favoured by any political party?! Or any senior offr/ Chief wishing to join politics will take up cudgels on behalf of his command?! Or such offrs on joining a political party will have the teeth or heart to take up issues on behalf of your Army?! The sooner we shed such 'rosy dreams' and wake up to reality the better. Keep politics and future political aspirants away from Army for God's sake!

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