NEW DELHI                 -           Taking a political stand on nationwide protests against Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), India’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Bipin Rawat on Thursday said that instigating people to carry out violence and arson in the country did not amount to leadership.

“The leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of universities … the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns. This is not leadership,” General Rawat said addressing a public event in New Delhi.

“Leadership is all about leading in the right direction. When you move forward, everybody follows,” said Gen Rawat, who is all set to retire on December 31.

He was immediately targeted by the opposition parties for taking sides while still occupying an apolitical office.

Parliamentarian from Hyderabad and All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul-Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said leadership was about knowing the limits of one’s office.

“Leadership is knowing the limits of one’s office. It is about understanding the idea of civilian supremacy and preserving the integrity of the institution that you head,” Owaisi tweeted.

Congress spokesperson Brijesh Kalappa, too, hit out at Gen Rawat for his comments.

“Army Chief Bipin Rawat speaking against protests against CAA is wholly against constitutional democracy. If army chief is allowed to speak on political issues today, it also permits him to attempt an Army takeover tomorrow,” Kalappa told media.

Taking a dig at the army chief and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress leader and former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Digvijaya Singh, said leaders must also not instigate their followers to indulge in communal violence.

“I agree General Saheb but also leaders are not those who allow their followers to indulge in genocide or communal violence. Do you agree with me General Saheb,” Singh tweeted.

Political analysts accuse Army Chief General Bipin Rawat of showing allegiance to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and helping advance the party’s “saffron agenda”.

“Time and again General Rawat has shown his pro-BJP allegiance. He unnecessarily waded into the debate on the contentious Citizenship Amendment Act. That too just days before his retirement on December 31. He is tipped to be the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) but the government has so far maintained a suspense. Maybe General Rawat’s statements are to appease the political leadership of the country,” political analyst Vivek Saksena told Gulf News.

This is the first time that Gen. Rawat has spoken against the nationwide protests against CAA.

Analyst Vijay Chaturvedi believes that the general is ensuring an “after-service rehabilitation” by making such controversial statements.

“CDS is a post that will function as a single point of contact for different branches of the armed forces. With such statements, General Rawat stands a good chance for after-service rehabilitation. But it would be better if he desisted from offering such biased advice till he hung up his boots next week, just for the sake of preserving the non-political image of the institution he is currently serving,” Chaturvedi told Gulf News.