Rahul Gandhi has yet again done what his politics is best adapted to -- rent a cause and move on. An alleged suicide by a 65-year old retired Subedar Ram Kishen Grewal from Haryana on One Rank One Pension (Orop) provided the Congress vice-president with an opportune moment to do a cameo act, land at Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in New Delhi where the deceased's body was kept and his family members were present.
Incidentally, this was first headline-making public presence of Rahul Gandhi in about a month time after his controversial khoon ki dalali (broker of blood) remark on surgical strikes against Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Congress second-in-command would have known that the police and other government agencies may not allow him to meet the deceased Subedar's family. The hospital, which has hundreds of other patients undergoing treatment, was obviously not the place to allow politicians to rave and rant on the suicide, on Orop and on the Narendra Modi government. For obvious reasons, the police prevented the Ram Manohar Lohia hospital in central Delhi from becoming a venue for protests and media blitzkrieg and saved the patients and their attendants from massive inconvenience.
Before Rahul could decide to go there and express his sympathies to the bereaved family, Aam Aadmi Party had picked up the issue. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia had already made his presence felt on the alleged OPRP suicide. Sisodia was detained by Delhi Police when he landed in the hospital. Soon after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal went to Lady Hardinge hospital where the former soldier's body was taken for an autopsy. When stopped from meeting the kin of the deceased soldier, the AAP chief was quick to declare that the Central government "gundagardi pe utri hui hai" (the Central government has taken recourse to hooliganism). The Delhi chief minister was fast ballistic against the Modi government, alleging that it was politicising the army.
Suddenly the hospital premises became the venue for opposition leaders to make a beeline while politicians from rival formations flaunted their nationalist credentials, love for the army and welfare of retired and serving soldiers but not without going vitriolic against PM Modi and his government. Rahul Gandhi in his quick bites to the swarm of TV cameras claimed that in ''Modi's India" a type of "non-democratic mentality" prevailed. The Congress vice-president sought to give the incident an emotive spin by indicating that the PM was harsh in his behaviour towards the soldier's family. "For the first time, I am not being allowed to meet family members of an army man. What kind of Hindustan is being made?" he asked.
The alleged suicide committed by the retired Army Subedar on the contentious Orop issue had all the potential to turn into a huge political issue against the Modi government, as also become an emotional issue for ex-defence personnel and their families to turn up against the present government. The issue was expected to resonate in the public mind since the current national mood is for the army, more so after the surgical strikes against Pakistan.
Ram Kishen Grewal was designated as a martyr by the likes of Rahul and Kejriwal to charge that this is the way Modi government treats the army veterans and martyrs.
The big question, however, is can a retired army jawan who commits suicide on a personal issue be designated as a martyr for political gains? The army trains its officers and men to act as per their head not as per their heart. Their actions couldn't be guided by their emotions. Suicide is a sign of weakness, not of strength, no matter what the cause is. By allegedly committing suicide retired Subedar Grewal has not done any pride to the uniform he once wore and to the force he once served.
He might have felt passionately for Orop and might have thought that Orop scheme offered by the Modi government was not as per his expectations. But there were two things that Grewal and Congress and AAP leaders queuing up to offer condolence and do politics over his death, should have considered. First, the Orop offered by the Modi government was a big leap forward on an issue, which had been pending since Independence. Second, the Orop issue is pending before Supreme Court. Senior advocate and Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani had filed a petition in the apex court and the court had issued notices to the Union government seeking its response on the issue.
The government has a convenient alibi that till such time the matter is pending before the apex court, it can review the Orop, which in any case was offered only months ago. Subedar (retd) Grewal would surely have been informed about that by his colleagues and erstwhile seniors if he had ever taken up that issue with them.
Moreover, the place of suicide Jawahar Bhawan is also intriguing. Jawahar Bhawan houses Ministry of External Affairs and has nothing to do with the army unless Grewal had some other ideas. It is also not clear who was with him at the time he committed suicide. Was he all alone or someone was there with him? What was his state of mind?
A pending request to meet Defence Minister, as has been claimed in some quarters, surely can't be a cause to drive someone to take his own life. Not for an ex-army man at least.
Grewal's tragic death is a sad moment, a matter of concern but the politics around his dead body by Rahul and Kejriwal with obvious political motive can't be approved of.