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Tuesday 18 February 2020

Game Behind Heckling Gen Singh?

Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region, External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs General VK Singh is under attack from the same forces that tried to create troubles for him when he was the Chief of Army Staff. Gen Singh had support of the Opposition then, which is now the ruling party at the Centre under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This piece is not a judgement on Gen Singh’s righteousness, but a few questions need to be answered. Does the Indian National Congress believe that the present goverment could have changed the affidavit filed by the UPA Government on Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, slated to take over as the new army chief? Defence Minister Arun Jaitley is already on record stating that his ministry did not consult him before filing the document in the Supreme Court.

The UPA Government has, in fact, made the NDA Government’s position untenable by first appointing Suhag as the next army chief and then filing an affidavit that contradicted the position of Gen Singh. The choice before the present government is clear. Either cancel Suhag’s promotion or hold Gen Singh accountable. Or, continue with the contradiction that would keep it needling!

Any independent inquiry would expose the fact that current Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh may have benefited due to his closeness to former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh; they are related. A similar inquiry would also reveal that the UPA Government ensured succession for the next three chiefs. Should the Modi Government then not look into the matter in its entirety rather than taking ad hoc decisions. Did the UPA not systematically damage the institution of the Army?

The UPA Government had accepted the resignation of Navy Chief Admiral DK Joshi on grounds of operational inefficiency. His next in command was also forced to resign; he was not promoted for being a part of the same command. The first NDA Government had taken action against military officers whose intelligence failure led to the Kargil War. Modi Government only has to follow the precedence set by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Government. Recall that Gen Singh, while serving as the Army Chief, had placed Lt Gen Suhag under a Disciplinary and Vigilance (DV) ban for a botched up military intelligence operation by a unit under him.

Is the Army operating as a clique to promote certain vested interests? Is there a larger deal that Gen Singh threatens to expose? The nation trusts Prime Minister Modi, more than the BJP that he led to victory in the Lok Sabha elections, to reach the bottom of the matter and do justice in the case.

Everyone in the Army knows that Gen Singh will bring far greater transparency and more accountability in the Army if he was given a chance to become the defence minister. but the Chandigarh club of former retired Army generals, some of whom are affiliated to the BJP, went to town against Gen Singh as if heavens would fall if he were allowed to become the defence minister.

Who is trying to hijack the system and why? One needs to find out why defence dealers’ lobby was trying to prevent Gen Singh from winning in Ghaziabad. The Army is supposed to be sacrosanct and people don’t write against it in fear of being branded as ‘anti-national’. But it’s a fact that there is a lot of muck that needs to be cleared if the Army has to become a world class defence force.

Gen Singh is the first Army Chief to have fought for same ration for jawans and officers. He also abolished the system of sahayaks and their use for personal work. Gen Singh is immensely popular with the jawans.

The NDA Government that supported Gen Singh when he was fighting his battle against corruption alone in the Army must now fight for his honour. The person who planted the story of likely coup in the Army is already out of the newspaper he edited. Now it is time for all lobbyists to stay out of the military system.

Sudesh Verma
Sudesh Verma
Member of the BJP's national media team, senior journalist and founder of Debating India Foundation

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