Will Narendra Modi see any impact of Agneepath scheme in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections?

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For eight years, Narendra Modi has been nurturing the same politics that most of the ‘happening’ Agniveers represent. And no one will be surprised if they personally monitor this plan and make appropriate changes even before the 2024 elections.

(Photo: PTI/Reuters)

Usually, a pilot project is carried out without any publicity to test it before any major policy change.

Deputy Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen BS Raju has said that the entry of the first batch into the armed forces under Agneepath should be considered a pilot project: ‘The method of recruitment, retaining soldiers in the army (after four years) or (service)’ If there is a need for any change in the percentage of extension…, it will be done in 4-5 years once we have enough data.’

That is why it should be considered as a pilot project. Indicating that changes are likely, General Raju said, ‘We may not have called it a pilot project, but it is clearly ‘work in progress’.

General Raju, who, by his nature, has projected the Agneepath scheme as a dramatic initiative to hide the astonishing incompetence of those in power – is perhaps speaking out loud.

Had the scheme been projected as a quietly implemented pilot project, according to the words used by the Vice Chief of Army Staff, angry youths would not have resorted to street violence as they have done in many states in the past. The shameful thing is that after having done the damage by giving half information in the lust of headlines, the government is now hiding behind the service chiefs, whose head is now full of damage control.

When things go awry, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, known for his impeccable political discourse, seems to have kept quiet for a long time.

There are striking similarities between the announcement of this plan and the way agricultural laws were announced dramatically without any discussion, as if an agricultural revolution was about to take place. Following the announcements that made headlines, a series of steps were taken back, then these ‘agricultural reforms’ were temporarily put on hold and finally they were repealed. The Uttar Pradesh assembly elections played a big role in the repeal of these laws, as farmers mostly belong to the ‘backward’ communities, which the BJP desperately wants to keep.

Similarly, the youth opposing the Agneepath scheme, especially ,-speaking states, belong to a section that the BJP would like to keep in its favour. The government was clearly taken aback by the intensity and scale of the protests, which were so spontaneous and widespread that even the opposition took some time to understand what was happening.

The government has already made some changes in the Agneepath policy in view of the negative response from the youth waiting to start recruiting in the army after a gap of two years. The purpose of raising the age limit from 21 to 23 is to reassure those who missed the recruitment during the period of COVID-19. Apart from this, army officers are emphasizing on other lucrative aspects like a lump sum amount of around Rs 11 lakh on retirement after four years of service.

Industrialists like Mahindra, Tata and Ambani have been brought in to assure that these Agniveers will get proper placement after retirement. A prominent BJP leader from Madhya Pradesh even assured to hire Agniveers for the job of security guards in the party office. BJP leaders have completely forgotten the prestige and status that comes with regularly getting a 17-year pensioned job – which is guaranteed to Personnel Below the Officer Rank (PBOR).

This aspect is yet to be understood by the government in an effort to explain the post-retirement prospects for the jawans.

the wire Rahul Bedi in an article published in this article has highlighted another problem that the government is now trying hard to point out that Agneepath scheme has nothing to do with savings on rising pension bills, which Defense expenditure has reached 22%, one of the highest figures for any modern military establishment.

Politically, the talk of pension savings would be disastrous for the BJP, as it considers itself superior to other political parties on pension commitments for the armed forces on ‘One Rank One Pension’.

Prime Minister Modi seems to be equally concerned about Agniveer’s political message, especially in the Hindi-speaking region, where the BJP gets most of its Lok Sabha seats.

Modi may be incapable of implementing the policy, but his political shrewdness cannot be underestimated. For eight years he has nurtured the same politics that most of the ‘happening’ Agniveers represent, and no one will be surprised if he personally oversees the plan and makes the appropriate changes before the 2024 elections. After all, General Raju’s call of Agneepath as a ‘pilot project’ may have its own political uses.

(Click here to read this article in English.)

Categories: india politics special

Tagged as: Agnipath Protests, Agnipath Scheme, Agniveer, Army Recruitment, Contractual Job, Contractual Job in Army, Employment, Indian Air Force, Indian Armed Forces, Indian Army, Indian Navy, Jobs, Modi Government, Narendra Modi, News, Rajnath Singh , Supreme Court, The Wire

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