Bringing the Jawan vs Chowkidar war of words in the front room, sacked BSF constable Tej Bahadur Yadav is all set to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his UP’s Varanasi constituency as an independent candidate in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. In 2017, Tej Bahadur released a video on social media on the poor quality of food served to the soldiers. The video became viral in no time but the revelation of the plight of Indian soldiers cost him his job. He also lost his 22-year-old son in January this year who reportedly committed suicide. Calling this election a contest between real and fake ‘Chowkidar’, the former security personnel calls himself hell-bent on exposing the “corrupt” BJP and the PM, who according to him is “hand in gloves with the dishonest people”.
On the opposing side of the independent candidate Jawan, stands both the State and Centre ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its one prime face — Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The card of nationalism has been used multiple times in the last five years and mostly as a last refuge on many issues. Be it on the notes of promoting the PM’s achievements on two Surgical Strikes in Pakistan (as claimed) in his tenure and both as a national revenge to the deadliest terror attacks on Indian security forces — killing of 19 soldiers in Uri Indian Army brigade headquarters (Sept 2016) and 40 Central Reserve Police Force personnel in Pulwama (Feb 2019). Taking timely advantage, slogans like “Modi Hai To Mumkin Hai (if Modi is there, it is possible)” found its place both on political billboards and social media. Ones who questioned the authenticity of the government claiming retaliatory bombing of Jaish-e-Mohammad terror base in Balakot in Pakistan, the intelligence failure that led to both the Uri and Pulwama massacre, followed by the latter capturing and then returning an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, were conveniently called anti-nationals both by the government and its supporters. They were blamed for daring to ‘question the integrity of the Indian armed forces and the government’. Nationalism was tactfully given an aggressive form.
Now, ironically enough, Indian Prime Minister will ideologically fight the polls countering one of those Jawans, once a part of the Central Armed Police Force. Who will the so-called flag-bearers of ‘shrill nationalism’ vote for? Who will the supporters of Prime Minister Modi vote for? Two most important considerations — Chowkidaar Narendra Modi and former BSF Jawan! Keeping the Josh of Nationalism high, are they going to support independent candidate former Jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav or this election will brutally expose the prevailing Hollow Nationalism in a section of the society?
BJP leader Praveen Kumar Nishad said, “Jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav won’t pose any challenge to PM Modi. Whether it is politics, political party, or Indian Army — all three have an organisational structure and army personnel are disciplined. I am unaware of what hindered Tej Bahadur Yadav while lakhs of Jawans posted for the nation’s security are working in tranquillity. This is a national election and citizens will once again vote for Narendra Modi and bring changes in the country.”
The video that led to Tej Bahadur’s dismissal from service on the charge of indiscipline was uploaded in 2017 where he is seen complaining that poor quality food (watery dal and burnt chapattis) was being served to the troops in the icy, mountainous region along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir. The BSF had set up a court of inquiry against him. The Home Ministry ordered an investigation into the incident and the PMO too sought a report. Later, initially, he was shifted out of LoC and then got sacked.
Stating that he had high hopes from the Modi government that it will put an end to corruption, Tej Bahadur also accused the armed forces authorities of harassing him whenever he pointed out ‘discrepancies and corruption’ in his department. He even called the vote bank politics in the name of Jawans ‘unfortunate’.
Samajwadi Party MP Nagendra Pratap Singh Patel told Afternoon Voice, “We have immense respect for the Indian Army. PM Modi is using the name of the armed forces for winning the election. The PM is making it an election agenda and doing wrong campaigning. It will be difficult for Narendra Modi to win election from Varanasi this time.”
The seven-phase general elections are scheduled to start on April 11 and end on May 19. Varanasi will vote on May 19. With the support of over 10,000 retired security personnel and some social organisation, this UP candidate vows to strengthen and eliminate corruption in the forces and it is one of the highlighted objectives in his poll campaign. He wants to reach the Parliament and take his fight against corruption to the next level. He also claimed to have support from Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, Suheldeo Bhartiya Samaj Party, Yadav Sena, Aam Aadmi Party’s Sanjay Singh, and Janshakti Party’s Renu Chawdhary.
BSP Maharashtra President Suresh Sakhare expressed, “BJP is indulging in politics in the name of armed forces. Soldiers leave their families behind to guard the nation. No political party must politicise the contribution of the Indian Army.”
“If PM’s patriotism is genuine, then no soldier would have come forward to contest poll against him. The government has failed to fulfill the promises made by it to people. The PM Modi-led government had promised to control inflation but it has increased; it also failed to generate 2 crore jobs, the cylinder has become costlier, and farmers are committing suicide,” he added.