The fresh row triggered by senior Congress functionary and former cabinet minister in the erstwhile UPA government Veerappa Moily when he accused the Indian Air Force chief B.S. Dhanoa of ‘lying’ in his observations on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal is shocking and deplorable. The statement is indeed a matter of record and the subsequent denial by Moily does not hold water. While reiterating that his force desperately needed new fighters, the IAF chief had backed the Supreme Court verdict endorsing the Modi government’s deal while rejecting the demand for a probe. This was perfectly in order and reflected Air Chief Marshall Dhanoa’s relief at the fact that after inordinate delays, the ball had after all been set rolling for the acquisition of these much-needed aircraft. It is indisputable that while India was dithering, our ‘regional adversaries or neighbours’ upgraded their military capabilities. Moily’s statement was in line with the new felicity with which Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been calling Prime Minister Modi a ‘liar’ and ‘Chor’ without any proof to support his accusations rank in poor taste. That this a retrograde step setting poor standards goes without saying.

The Congress party must understand that by making such irresponsible statements, the party is lowering the morale of the country’s armed forces personnel. While accusing the BJP of undermining the authority of institutions, the opposition led by the Congress is itself guilty too of not just compromising the armed forces but even the country’s apex court, the French government and the senior functionaries of the aircraft manufacturer Dassault through unwarranted criticism that defies propriety. In the culture that prevails in the Congress today, party men are quick to follow Rahul Gandhi’s lead to ingratiate themselves to the leader. That is responsible for setting dubious standards of public discourse and attitude towards those in authority.

It is indeed vital that a stop be put to this pernicious practice at the earliest. True, it is not the Congress alone that is responsible for the assault on institutions. The government too has had a share in brushes with established institutions that deserve to be respected. But one expects higher standards of behaviour from frontline leaders.