Every military force has its elaborate system of recognition and honour for valour, distinguished service etc. both during hostilities and in times of peace. That system is often articulated by the ribbons, medals and other decorations that personnel proudly wear on their tunics ~ decorations that often “weigh” as much as the braid and stripes that signify the wearers’ rank in a highly- tiered structure.

It is thus a moot point if members of the armed services would appreciate the call to first-time voters to dedicate their ballots to the heroes who conducted last month’s aerial strikes against a terrorist training camp across the Line of Control in Balakot, or indeed in honour of the 40-odd CRPF men who were martyred in Pulwama a few days before the air force taught a bitter lesson to those sponsoring ‘jihadi’ militancy.

Apolitical members of the forces, alas their number is rapidly declining, might actually feel slighted at their valour bring reduced to the only currency that is valued in a political ambience ~ an ambience which they are vigorously trained to avoid: though a few of their seniors seem to be relishing that in recent years. No longer does the uniform throw up the likes of an Arjan Singh: though he had a string of decorations to append to his name, he only used the DFC, which he earned as a young fighter pilot during World War II in Burma.

Even before the ongoing election campaigns dropped into top gear a former Chief of the Naval Staff had drawn the attention of the Election Commission to his apprehension that “nationalism” might be misused or abused during electoral campaigns. The EC had taken note of Admiral L Ramdas’ concerns and advised against attempts to ride a military bandwagon to electoral success.

A sad reality is that Nirvachan Sadan’s “bark” has been reduced to a whimper, its “bite” decidedly toothless at a time when violations of the model code of conduct are brazenly committed. All that the Commission does is “take note” of complaints ~ as if it lacks the capacity to take suo moto action ~, calls for reports from local officials and little beyond that. It is not surprising that on the very day that the Prime Minister made his appeal, the chief minister of Gujarat also used the military as a political platform ~ this was probably inevitable after Yogi Adityanath was not hauled up for his ‘Modiji ki sena’ remark.

Time was when the “brass” had the guts to caution the political leadership, now even the Supreme Commander is a passive spectator to an impotent Election Commission. What is left? Does it fall upon the Supreme Court to insulate our security forces against unhealthy political influences?