The Narendra Modi government’s Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy and the Air Force largely on a four-year short-term contractual basis has been hailed as a major overhaul of the decades-old selection process.
Under the scheme, youth between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 23 will be inducted into the three services. After completion of the four-year tenure, the scheme provides for retaining 25% of the recruits for regular service. The government has said the new model will not only bring in new capabilities to the armed forces but will also open up avenues for the youth in the private sector.
The Agnipath scheme has also received backing from unexpected quarters, with Congress leader Manish Tewari terming it a “much-needed reform in the right direction”.
“This is a reform which is much-needed and is a reform in the right direction,” Tewari said. “I do empathise with youth who have concerns over Agnipath recruitment process. Reality is India needs a younger armed force with lighter human footprint savvy on technology, equipped with state of art weaponry,” he said. He, however, added in a tweet that the armed forces shouldn’t be an “employment guarantee programme”.
As Tewari’s backing for the scheme raises eyebrows during a tumultuous time for the Congress, News18 takes a look other instances when Opposition leaders surprised observers with praise for the Modi government.
Captain Amarinder Singh ended up leaving the Congress after being ousted from the Punjab CM’s post last year. Floating the Punjab Lok Congress, he joined hands with the BJP for Punjab elections 2022, but his cordial relationship with the PM was a thorn in the Congress’ side even when he was the CM.
At the peak of tensions with the Congress leadership in August last year, Amarinder Singh had praised the central government’s renovation of the Jallianwala Bagh.
“I don’t know what has been removed. To me it looks very nice,” said Captain had said just a day after Rahul Gandhi termed the renovated look “an insult to the martyrs”.
Ghulam Nabi Azad
In February 2021, days after he retired from the Rajya Sabha, veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad raised eyebrows in Jammu with praise for PM Narendra Modi.
“I like a lot of things about many leaders. I am from village and feel proud. Even our Prime Minister comes from a village and used to sell tea. Although we are political rivals, I appreciate that he doesn’t hide his true self,” Azad had said while addressing a gathering in Jammu. His statement had come a day after the Group of 23 leaders in the Congress reiterated their demand for organisational elections and systemic change.
The PM had accorded Azad a tearful farewell in the Rajya Sabha just a fortnight earlier. “Whoever takes over from him will have to meet the high standards he has set. He took care of not only his party’s interest but also the House and the country,” the PM had said.
Interestingly, in February this year, Azad’s nephew Mubashir Azad joined the BJP, saying he was “influenced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s developmental works at the ground level”.
PM Modi has time and again in public meetings expressed his admiration and respect for the Maratha strongman. In December last year, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is a coalition partner with Shiv Sena and Congress in Maharashtra, praised the PM’s style of functioning, saying once he takes up any task, he makes sure it is completed.
He even added that Modi’s style of taking his colleagues along is something that was missing in former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s style.
“His temperament is such that once he takes up any task in hand, he will make sure that he will not stop till the time it (the task) reached its conclusion. He has a good hold on administration and that is his strong side,” Pawar had said at an event in Pune organised by a Marathi daily.
HD Deve Gowda’s praise for PM Modi has its genesis in a challenge the former prime minister threw to the latter ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Deve Gowda had declared that if the BJP came to power on its own with 276 seats, he would resign from the Lok Sabha.
Recalling the dare at a press conference in December 2021, Gowda said: “I had told him that if you win 276 seats, I will resign. You can rule by forging an alliance with others, but if you win 276 seats on your own, then I will resign (from Lok Sabha).”
When the BJP stunned poll pundits with absolute majority of 282 seats in the Lok Sabha, Gowda said he felt the urge to follow through. “I told him that I stand by my words. Please accept my resignation. He told me why I was taking things spoken during the election so seriously. He also said that he would require to discuss matters with me whenever the situation arises,” Gowda said, adding that his respect for Modi had “increase manifold” that day.
In March this year, Gowda, while ruling out an alliance with BJP for 2023, had appreciated Modi’s dedicated election effort. “PM Modi is battling to bring BJP to power in every corner of the country. He does the election work with all the dedication,” the former PM had said.
At a book launch in August 2019, Congress leader Jairam Ramesh ruffled feathers when he said that Modi’s governance model was “not a complete negative story” and added that not recognising his work and “demonizing” him all the time was not going to help.
It is time we recognize Modi’s work and what he did between 2014 and 2019 due to which he was voted back to power by over “30 per cent of the electorate”, Ramesh had said. He had also cited how successful the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUJ) had turned out for the prime minister.
Ramesh’s statement didn’t go down well with a section of the Congress, with party veteran KK Tewary claiming some “self-propagating” leaders in the Congress had “hijacked” the party.
Jairam Ramesh’s statement on PM Modi found backing in Shashi Tharoor, who said praising the Prime Minister for doing the right things would lend credibility to the Opposition’s criticism of him.
“As you know, I have argued for six years now that Narendra Modi should be praised whenever he says or does the right thing, which would add credibility to our criticisms whenever he errs. I welcome others in opposition coming around to a view for which I was excoriated at the time,” Tharoor had said on August 23, 2019.
Tharoor showered praises on the Modi government again in August 2021, this time for the Co-WIN platform. “I’ve always acknowledged & praised the Government when it merits it. As a critic of #Cowin, let me say they’ve done something terrific. Send [email protected] message “download certificate” to 90131 51515, receive OTP & get your vaccination certificate back by @WhatsApp. Simple&fast! (sic),” Tharoor said in a tweet.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi
Abhishek Manu Singhvi had joined Tharoor in defending Jairam Ramesh’s praise for the Prime Minister in 2019.
Taking to Twitter, Singhvi had said: “Always said demonising Modi wrong. No only is he PM of nation, a one-way opposition actually helps him. Acts are always good, bad and indifferent-they must be judged issue-wise and not person-wise. Certainly, Ujjawala scheme is only one amongst other good deeds.”
Former Union minister and Congress leader Anand Sharma deviated from the company line in December 2020 when he praised PM Narendra Modi for reviewing in person the development of Covid-19 vaccines in Ahmedabad, Hyderabad and Pune.
“Prime minister Shri Narendra Modi visit to Serum Institute, Bharat Biotech and Zydus Cadilla was a recognition of Indian scientists and their work to produce the vaccine for COVID-19 That alone will lift morale of frontline warriors and reassure the nation,” the deputy leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha had said.
Within a few weeks, he again lauded the Modi government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Speaking at the 93rd annual meeting of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Sharma said: “Despite the challenge, we were not overwhelmed, we responded with grit as a nation. This is a credit to our people, to our society and to the government. We all got together as a nation to respond to a situation, which was beyond us. And equally, I would say that I am proud that this country is today in a position not only to manufacture, but also export ventilators, PPE kits, masks.”
Differing with his party colleagues, Sharma had in March this year, lauded the Ministry of External Affairs for evacuating Indian nationals from war torn Ukraine.
NCP leader Majeed Memon’s praise for the PM came in March this year when ministers in the Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government in Maharashtra were facing fire from central investigating agencies. News agency PTI quoted Memon as saying that the Opposition must study the reasons Modi and the BJP keep winning elections.
“If Narendra Modi wins people’s mandate and is also shown as world’s most popular leader, there must be some qualities in him or good work he may have done which the opposition leaders are unable to find,” he had said.
Memon told PTI that the opposition should introspect why Modi keeps getting such a “positive mandate” and dismissed suggestions of manipulation of EVMs, an oft-repeated complaint of the Congress and other political parties.
Former Kannur MP AP Abdullakutty, who is now in the BJP, has been expelled from two parties for praising PM Modi – the CPM and the Congress. Abdullakutty was first expelled from the Left party in 2009 for expressing admiration for Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister. Kutty later joined the Congress and was elected to the state assembly twice.
The Congress had on June 3, 2019 expelled him from the party days after he lavished praise on the Prime minister for the BJP-led NDA’s massive victory in the 2019 General Elections.