In a major development, the group of ex-servicemen, who have been sitting in a dharna at Jantar Mantar over the implementation of One Rank One Pension (OROP) in Delhi for over 570 days, have extended their support to Congress in the upcoming Assembly polls.
Led by General Satbir Singh, the ex-servicemen extended their support to the grand old party in the presence of Captain Amarinder Singh, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Ambika Soni, RS Surjewala, Ambika Soni, among others.
The Congress is hoping that this will come as a major boost for the party in poll-bound Uttarakhand and Punjab that has a sizable population of ex-servicemen.
The two states send a substantial number of young people to the armed forces and Congress is planning to cash in on the rising angst against the central government over OROP package.
Speaking to the media, Congress Punjab Chief Amarinder Singh supported implementation of OROP as per the demands of the ex-servicemen. He spoke about addressing the anomalies arising out of the 7th Pay Commission and restoring parity of the ranking of armed forces members with their civilian counterparts.
"Honour of an ex-serviceman is more important than anything else and the government should pay heed to their demands," Singh said. He also accused Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar for insulting soldiers and denigrating army commanders.
Accepting the resolution made by the ex-servicemen, Singh claimed that 21 recommendations made in the resolution have been accepted by the Punjab Congress Committee. He also guaranteed that these recommendations would be implemented if the Congress is voted to power.
Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat thanked the ex-servicemen for fighting a "historic battle" and said he was hurt by how their rights were being bulldozed by the central government. He also promised to adopt some of the recommendations of the ex-servicemen in the party manifesto.
The Congress also promised the ex-servicemen that it would implement the 2013 Koshiari Committee Report and promised to send more ex-servicemen to the Rajya Sabha.
"We demand implementation of all issues being raised by the ex-servicemen. It is shameful that our veterans have been protesting at Jantar Mantar for 570 days while the government is totally oblivious to their demands. Government is rubbing salt on their wounds and it should understand that it is not about money, but about honour," said Virbhadra Singh.
Accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi of betraying the ex-servicemen, Congress' chief spokesperson RS Surjewala said that the PM has turned OROP into One Rank Five Pensions.
Representing the ex-servicemen, General Satbir Singh pointed out how no one from the government has come to meet them at Jantar Mantar where they have been sitting on relay hunger strike for 570 days, and counting, requesting the Centre to change the OROP package.
OROP was a pivotal issue during the last general elections and Modi held a rally of ex-servicemen at Rewari in Haryana in 2014 and promised to implement it after assuming power.
In November 2016, Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi went to Jantar Mantar to extend his support to the ex-servicemen, after Subedar Ram Kishen Grewal committed suicide by consuming poison over insufficient pension.