Senior Congress leader Amarinder Singh asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday to sack defence minister Manohar Parrikar over a circular which purportedly "downgrades" armed forces officers' status vis-a-vis their civilian counterparts.
"You cannot allow such an incompetent joker to continue to hold such a sensitive portfolio," Singh said in a statement.
The Punjab Congress president reacted strongly to reports that a "circular issued by the defence ministry, dated October 18, on rank equivalence between defence officers and armed forces headquarters (AFHQ) civil service officers brings the rank of armed forces officers a notch down compared to their earlier status".
Singh charged Parrikar "with meticulously and shamelessly chipping away at the morale of the Indian Army in order to satiate vested bureaucratic interests." "According to the reports, a colonel, who was until now equivalent to a director, has now been downgraded to a rank equivalent to a joint director. Similarly, a director-ranked civilian officer has been equated to a brigadier, and so on," Singh, himself an ex-servicemen, said.
Expressing shock "at this evident mischief-plus by bureaucrats, with the ruling political establishment playing into their hands", the former Punjab chief minister urged Modi "to personally intervene and have the ministry's totally unacceptable and unjustified decision revoked without a minute's delay."
Singh said, "As an ex-soldier of the Indian Army, I know what an army personnel deserves, and a proper ranking is just one of those things". "Depriving the army personnel of their rightful due could not but lead to massive erosion of their morale, which needs to be prevented come what may," he added.