Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Friday said that two senior officers whose names appear in the purported letter to President Ram Nath Kovind have stated that their consent was not taken.

Speaking to reporters about a row over a letter complaining about politicians using military successes for campaigning for the Lok Sabha elections, Sitharaman said that former Air Chief Marshal NC Suri and former Army chief General SF Rodrigues have denied signing the letter.

“Two senior officers said they have not given consent. It is very worrying that people’s consent are not even being taken and fake letters are being sent by some vested interest groups to the President. Even Rashtrapati Bhawan has said that they have not received the letter,” Sitharaman said.

“It is absolutely condemnable and I would like to say at the time of elections, at least fake complaints are not sent. Of course, [you are] welcome to give your genuine complaints,” she added.

A letter signed by 156 veterans including some former Army, Air Force and Navy chiefs, was reportedly sent to the President on Thursday. The President’s office, however, denied receiving any letter.

The letter, which became public, urged the President “to take all necessary steps to urgently direct all political parties that they must forthwith desist from using the military, military uniforms or symbols, and any actions by military formations or personnel, for political purposes or to further their political agendas”.

It further appealed to President Kovind to ensure that the secular and apolitical character of the Armed Forces is preserved.

Among the names that appear in the letter are former Army chiefs General Shankar Roy Chowdhury and General Deepak Kapoor, and former Navy chiefs Admiral L Ramdas, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, Admiral Arun Prakash and Admiral Suresh Mehta.

According to India Today, General Rodrigues said he had no idea about the letter.

“Don’t know what it (letter) is all about. All my life, we have been apolitical. After 42 years as an officer, it’s a little late to change. Always put India first. Don’t know who these people are, but this is a classic manifestation of fake news,” General Rodrigues was quoted as saying by India Today.

ACM Suri told ANI that the letter is not “Admiral Ramdas’ [top signatory] letter and it has been done by some Major Chaudhary”.

“He has written this and it was coming on WhatsApp and emails,” ACM Suri said, adding that his consent was not taken and that he doesn’t agree with “whatever has been written”.

The controversial letter further objected to the use of statements such as “Modi-ji Ki Sena”, as was made by Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath at a rally in Ghaziabad.

Read More: Row erupts over veterans’ letter to President against use of armed forces for ‘political agendas’

Objections were also raised on the use of pictures of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in political hoardings.

The Election Commission had on March 9 advised parties to desist from indulging in any political propaganda involving activities of defence forces.