Keen to keep the Rafale deal issue alive, Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday linked the deal with the demand by a group of ex-servicemen for implementation of one rank, one pension (OROP) scheme.
Rahul met a group of ex-servicemen and said that the Congress would implement OROP properly if it is voted back to power. During the nearly 50-minute interaction, issues related to OROP and the situation in Jammu and Kashmir came up for discussion. Rahul said the Rafale issue too was brought up.
“The ex-servicemen told me that OROP has not been implemented by the Prime Minister. We also discussed the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The wrong non-strategic approach of the government, the division that has been created there and the cost that has been paid by our soldiers. Rafale came up and these things are connected. Anil Ambani can be given Rs 30,000 crore for doing nothing but our soldiers cannot be given OROP… this is the connection,” Rahul said.
He said that Rs 30,000 crore is “more than enough to solve the OROP problem… OROP requires only Rs 8,300 crore. You (government) are ready to give Rs 30,000 crore (offset contract) to a company that has no experience and background but you are not ready to give (money) for equipment for armed forces, their future, their pension.” He said the government had mistreated ex-servicemen and would have to have to change its approach.
The meeting was also attended by former defence minister A K Antony, AICC general secretary Ashok Gehlot, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala and several retired senior officials of the defence forces.
Major General (retired) Satbir Singh, who has been spearheading the agitation for implementation of OROP scheme, told reporters that they have appealed to Rahul to take up the issues with the government, as the Congress is the principal opposition party. “We are soldiers and we are on the streets. We feel humiliated. We demand that the Army’s dignity be restored as it was on August 15, 1947,” Singh said.
Meanwhile, the BJP said that the Congress chief has been forced to remember soldiers after being out of power for four and a half years. BJP media head and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni said that Rahul was seen “standing with the corrupt” when the Congress-led government was in power between 2004 and 2014, but he did nothing for soldiers. “It is shameful that Rahul Gandhi is criticising the Modi government, which implemented the OROP scheme for soldiers, while he himself did nothing for them. It is the new kind of low-level politics he has started,” he said.