Amid continuing protests against the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, the Opposition on Sunday raised pitch for its withdrawal, with Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra appealing to the youth to recognise “fake nationalists” and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav asking if the RSS has a “hidden agenda” behind the scheme.
Speaking at the Congress’s ‘satyagraha’ against the scheme at Jantar Mantar, Priyanka said the Congress supports the “struggle” of the youth, who should fight to bring to power a government which represents “true patriots”.
“Follow democratic means, walk on the path of truth and non-violence and bring down this government. You should strive to bring a government which shows true patriotism,” she said.
Priyanka, however, said the protesters should desist from violence as “this country and this country’s properties belong to you”.
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Many senior Congress leaders, including AICC general secretary (organisation) KC Venugopal, Lok Sabha MPs Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and Gaurav Gogoi, Rajya Sabha MPs Deepender Singh Hooda and Jairam Ramesh, former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh and former Rajasthan deputy CM Sachin Pilot addressed the gathering.
Gogoi, MP from Assam, said unrest over the Agnipath scheme has implications for national security as well as “unemployed youth are already joining organisations like the ULFA”.
Hooda said by changing the recruitment process in the armed forces, the government has also disrespected the hard work of young aspirants. He said attempts to justify Agnipath by drawing parallels with the recruitment model followed by countries like Israel were shallow as India’s socio-economic realities are different.
Pilot said the scheme amounts to playing with the sentiments of the youth. Former Uttarakhand CM Harish Rawat, who was also present at the protest, said the satyagraha needs to spread across the country to compel the government to rollback the scheme.
Meanwhile, RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, who addressed a press conference in Delhi, wondered if the RSS has a “hidden agenda” behind the scheme, which has “triggered many doubts in the minds of the youth”.
“Is this a MNREGA scheme for the educated youth or is there any hidden agenda of the RSS behind it? You all know 75 per cent of the recruited youth will be removed after four years. Only 25 per cent will remain. The possibility of getting unemployed under this scheme is very high. The same set of people who promised One Rank One Pension scheme have brought no rank no pension,” he said.
Tejashwi said the government was deliberately blaming the opposition for the protests. “You make promises, come to power and then when protests break out for your inabilities, you blame the opposition. They have their own government in Bihar. If we are inciting people, what is their administration doing? They used the same tactic of accusing the opposition even during the farm protests. It is the opposition’s job to raise questions and the government must answer them. We have never supported violence which will never solve anything,” he said.
On JDU’s criticism of the government, Tejashwi said, “Why are they still the government then? They are terming their own government as a failure. It has not happened anywhere before.”