Indian politicians fume over Army chief’s speech on leadership

Outgoing Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s speech on leadership touched a nerve prompting opposition parties to question him and seek an apology from him.

Speaking to youth at a healthcare leadership summit in Delhi on Thursday, Gen Rawat said leadership does not mean leading people in inappropriate directions.

Inciting university students and crowds to carry out arson and violence, which India is witnessing in cities and towns, is not leadership.

A true leader is one who leads people in the right direction, advises them and takes care of them, the General said.

Leadership is a complex phenomenon although it may look simple with someone leading and others following. Leaders emerging from the crowd often take them in the inappropriate direction, Gen Rawat said.

As a shining example of good leadership, he cited military officers in command of various units. The army is proud of them, he said.

During his speech, Gen Rawat never named any particular incident, political party or leader. Still the opposition parties, who have been misleading students to indulge in violence over a new citizenship law, immediately accused him of making a political statement.

Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen said the General’s comment undermines the central leadership.

If protests turn violent, local police can handle it. The military need not interfere in civilian matters, Owaisi said.

Communist leader Sitaram Yechury said Gen Rawat crossed the limits by commenting on the violence unleashed during street protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Yechury demanded the General’s apology for interfering in political matters.

The criticism against Gen Rawat comes when the government is expected to name the Chief of Defence Staff.

Although Gen Rawat’s term ends on Dec 31, he is said to be the likely candidate for this newly created post.   

The General’s views at the Delhi summit are seen as a good lesson to youth who seek leadership roles.

As Army chief, he has every reason to be concerned about the internal security situation.

While speaking on leadership, the General drew the attention of youth to street violence only to show how leaders can dangerously mislead people. While doing so, he did not mention CAA, Jamia University or the suspected leaders of various groups behind the riots.