Signatories included 3 ex-Army chiefs, 4 ex-Navy chief, former IAF chief. Letter mentions Yogi Adityanath calling armed forces "Modiji ki Sena". Concerns also over use of Abhinandan Varthaman's photos at poll campaigns

Over 150 veterans have written to President Ram Nath Kovind expressing "alarm and disquiet" at the armed forces being for "political purposes" or "to further political agendas". The letter, sent to the President on Thursday, the first day of the national election, refers to the "unusual and completely unacceptable practice of political leaders taking credit for military operations like cross-border strikes and claiming the armed forces to be 'Modi ji ki Sena'".

Among the signatories are three former Army chiefs - General (retired) SF Rodrigues, General (Retd) Shankar Roy Chowdhury (Retd) and General  Deepak Kapoor (Retd), four former Navy chiefs and former Air Force chief NC Suri.

"...we write to bring to your attention, as the Supreme Commander of India's Armed Forces, some concerns which have caused considerable alarm and disquiet among both the serving and the retired personnel of our Forces," the letter reads.

The retired senior officers mention Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath referring to the armed forces as "Modiji ki Sena", or "Prime Minister Narendra Modi's army" at an election rally in Uttar Pradesh recently. The Chief Minister was reprimanded by the Election Commission for the statements.

The veterans also refer to photos of "election platforms and campaigns where party workers are seen wearing military uniforms and posters and images with pictures of soldiers, especially Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman". Pilot Varthaman was held captive for three days by Pakistan after his plane was shot down in an air duel between the two countries on February 27.

In March, Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari provoked controversy for attending a party rally in military fatigues. Actor-turned-politician Urmila Matondkar of the Congress came under fire recently for using Abhinandan Varthaman's photo during a roadside campaign in Mumbai.

Reprimands by the Election Commission "do not appear to have resulted in any substantive change of behavior and practice on the ground," the retired generals say, fearing a rise in such instances during polls.

The letter appeals to the President to ensure that the secular and apolitical character of the armed forces is preserved and to urgently "direct all political parties to stop using the army, military uniforms or symbols or military operations" for politics.