Former Indian Air Force (IAF) chief RKS Bhadauria on Thursday took a swipe at Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, without actually naming him, for raising questions on the Agniveer scheme, and demanded an apology. According to Bhadauria, the Army should not be dragged into any kind of politics.

Former chief of air staff, Air Chief Marshal (retd) RKS Bhadauria

His statements came a day after Gandhi accused defence minister Rajnath Singh of lying about giving compensation to the next of kin of Agniveer Ajay Kumar, who lost his life in the line of duty.

“A lot of discussions were held in Parliament on Agniveer. Now, a controversy is being created that the defence minister’s claim that 1 crore has already been given was a lie. They should apologise for it because the fact is that about 98 crore has already been given to Ajay Singh’s family, and 67 lakh more will be given,” Bhadauria, who joined the BJP in March, said.

Stating that the claim is “absolutely wrong”, the former IAF chief said, “It’s an emotional issue…The Army should not be involved (dragged) in such kind of politics.”

He further asserted that Agniveer is a “well thought-out scheme” and was implemented after “extensive discussions”.

“Nobody should have any doubt about the (quality of) training provided to those recruited under the scheme. Soldiers raised under the scheme are not less than any regular soldier from any angle. They will work during the battle with the same capacity that the regular soldiers would do. Now, they will be our regular soldiers,” he said.

Bhadauria also appealed to the youth to join the Army under the Agniveer scheme without being “misled” by any claim against it.

Earlier on Wednesday, Rahul Gandhi released a video purportedly of the father of an Agniveer, who claimed that the family had not received any compensation or help from the Centre after his son was killed in a landmine explosion in Naushera in Jammu and Kashmir in January.

“Defence minister Rajnath Singh lied in Parliament about the assistance given to the family of the martyred Agniveer. Martyr Agniveer Ajay’s father has himself told the truth and exposed their lies. The defence minister should apologise to the Parliament, the country, the army and the family of the martyr,” Gandhi wrote in a post on X.

However, hours later, the Indian Army responded to it by rejecting the Congress leader’s claims.

“It is emphasised that the Indian Army salutes the supreme sacrifice made by Agniveer Ajay Kumar. The last rites were carried out with full Military Honours. Of the total amount due, family of Agniveer Ajay has already been paid 98.39 lakhs. Ex-Gratia and other benefits amounting to approximately 67 lakhs, as applicable according to the provisions of the Agniveer Scheme, will be paid on Final Account Settlement shortly post due Police verification. The total amount will be 1.65 Cr approximately,” the Army said.

Meanwhile, on Monday, Gandhi, who was recently appointed as the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, triggered a row with his remarks against the claims about the Agnipath recruitment policy for the armed forces. Following this, several parts of the Congress leader’s speech, including his attacks on the BJP, were expunged from the records of the Parliament.

(With inputs from PTI)