On Sunday, Union minister Arun Jaitley flew to Thiruvananthapuram in a military transport — at the taxpayers' expense — to condole the death an RSS worker hacked to death, allegedly by CPM cadres.
Now, there is nothing wrong per se in Jaitley visiting anyone who has suffered a grievous loss, especially if the visit is made in his capacity as a citizen. But the moment he turned up with all the might of the State at his back, the equation changed.
Given that the situation in Kerala is devolving into an all-out political gang war, Jaitley should have used the occasion to visit the families of slain CPM workers. This would have had a positive effect and hopefully, put a temporary end to the madness that grips the state.
But it doesn't end there.
As defence minister, Jaitley ought to have blown his stop at his staff for placing him in this incredibly awkward position. He was poorly advised. Even as he shared his grief and expressed his sorrow at the death of the RSS worker, only a short distance away sat another grieving family: Of 25-year-old Sukhoi pilot S Achudev, who was killed in a jet crash in Arunachal.
It was incumbent on Jaitley, as a government representative and defence minister, to have made this mini detour and called on the grief-stricken parents of this young pilot who gave up his life serving his country.
The underlying message from politicians: The defence minister had no time to meet the parents of the man who served the nation and gave his life up for her. Who cares for those in uniform?
If the armed forces are a bit miffed at this, they have a good reason to be.
In all fairness, Jaitley probably did not know that the bereaved family was nearby. This is where his entourage comes into the picture. Surely, they should have done their homework. Surely, you can see why some would be upset if you took an air force plane to visit the home of someone killed in service of the party but not the home of someone who died serving the nation.
Couldn't his team have figured this out during the visit? After all, this is the defence ministry. Don't they know a plane went down and two good men lost their lives? Many soldiers have given up their todays for our tomorrows at the border. They come home in coffins and with full military honours. But has the defence minister attended those funerals or grieved with their families?
Jaitley might not think he has done anything wrong. That this is the norm. For him, the RSS worker was more important and those belonging to the BJP's ideological fountainhead needed to be appeased. After all, the air force isn't going to create a ruckus. They're professionals.
However, if Jaitley wants to continue to enjoy the perks of being defence minister, he must do the right things by his boys. With Jaitley sauntering off to Goa and displaying a thorough lack of interest in this vital portfolio, we now have a part-time defence minister whose speciality is finance.
The government cannot seem to find a full-time defence minister. Which tells you exactly how much they value our men in uniform.
Updated Date: Aug 10, 2017 15:10 PM