There is no valid reason to doubt the veracity of Lt. Gen DS Hooda (retd) when he says that it was some time back that the Congress president had invited him to head the party’s task force on national security issues, but the distinguished former C-in-C of the Army’s Northern Command would be acutely aware of “timing”. Though not a politician, and he claims he has no immediate plans to join the party, he would surely know that the announcement of his heading the think-tank was strategically disastrous. Coming as it did when the terrorist strike at Pulwama was rapidly snowballing into a political controversy, it was inevitable, perhaps unfortunate, that he would be seen as being inducted into the Congress to augment its firepower over alleged lapses at Pulwama and other political skirmishes. That a few months back he had criticised the NDA government for seeking political capital from the surgical strike of November 2016 (conducted under his command) would only fuel those suspicions. Almost immediately he found himself in a political storm: Arun Jaitley was clever enough to sarcastically observe that the Congress had finally conceded that the much-hyped strikes had paid dividends, lesser lights of the BJP were crude in their reaction. Not surprisingly, a number of military veterans expressed reservations over the “linkages” that are increasingly eroding the celebrated apolitical traditions of the Indian armed services. Having seemingly taken the plunge General Hooda must brace himself for the consequent flak. Times have so changed that few will accept the benign response of the legendary Gen. JFR Jacob ~ asked by a reporter why he was joining the BJP the simple soldier replied, “Nobody else invited me.”
If the political angle could be ignored there would be reason to commend the effort to infuse professionalism into the political community. Hopefully that would avert the inane statements/ allegations that have made our politicians a laughing stock in professional circles all through the Bofors, HDW, Hawk and Rafale “scandals” that have rocked the nation down the years. Gen Hooda has said he plans to form a core group of specialists in foreign policy, economic affairs, internal security etc. to help formulate a strategic blueprint. That would indeed be welome, maybe even a trend-setter that would bring more grey matter into political thinking ~ at present it is devoid of even the general wisdom of the civil services, as ministers jump from one portfolio to another without hardly a clue to the subject over which they take critical decisions. Sadly Gen Hooda, and others who might follow a trail he seeks to blaze, however could find their efforts negated by those who have secured their clout by appealing to sentiments rooted in caste, religion, community, region, language etc. For professionalism could be drowned out by the microphones monopolised by loudmouths.