Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today asked the government to clear the air in Parliament over the controversy arising out of the Army Chief’s letter to the Prime Minister, saying the country’s defence preparedness was “suffering” because of the Centre’s “indecision”.
Noting that the Army Chief’s letter has pointed out “the indecision on part of Government”, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said, “Our defence is suffering because of indecision and that is what we condemn.”
“It becomes more serious when the Army chief himself tells that the situation is worsening day by day,” he said.
The letter has revealed that there was “no procurement, no modernisation, no sufficient equipment. Funds are lying unutilized and this situation is precarious,” Mr. Javadekar said.
The Rajya Sabha MP said the letter was not a new one and he had referred to it during a recent speech in Parliament.
“The letter written by V. K. Singh is not a new letter and I referred this letter in my speech during the (debate on) Motion of Thanks on the President’s address,” he told reporters outside Parliament House.
The Army Chief has reportedly contended in the letter that the entire tank fleet is “devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks”, the air defence is “97 per cent obsolete” and the infantry is crippled with “deficiencies of crew served weapon” and lacks “night fighting” capabilities.
The party said the incident also shows that the equilibrium between the Defence Ministry and the Army has been disturbed” and pitched for modernisation of the forces which appear to have suffered.
“The contents of the Army chief’s letter are scary. When the common man reads that the defence forces have no ammunition and cannot defend the country he finds it scary,” Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj told reporters.
The party was equally critical of the Army chief for not pursuing the bribe offer case and writing a letter to the Prime Minister on the state of affairs in the Army as well as Defence Minister A. K. Antony for not handling these issues - including the need for modernisation — with deftness.
“The decision to write a letter is always fraught with the possibility, even if one per cent, that it may be leaked at some point in time,” Ms. Swaraj said, criticising the Army chief.
She also wondered why Gen. V. K. Singh had not immediately got the officer, who offered him Rs.14 crore bribe, arrested.
BJP is also of the opinion that writing such a letter to the PM is a “breach of discipline”. It expressed its ire at the differences between the ministry and the Army.
'Serious and sensitive issue'
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said the Prime Minister and the Defence Minister should explain what steps have been taken to tackle the situation.
“This is a serious and sensitive issue. It will affect the morale of the armed forces. Now the secret letter has been made public so we want the government should take Parliament into confidence and PM and Defence Minister should tell what follow-up actions have been taken to control the situation,” Mr. Naidu told reporters outside Parliament.
Mr. Naidu said it is unfortunate that until the issue becomes public, government does not take any step. “PM should come to the House and tell the people what action has been taken on it.”
Expressing concern over the armed forces’ preparedness, he said, “Government should reassure the nation about the urgent steps taken by it and come forward with facts and figures about the state of affairs in armed forces. We cannot blame anybody as we are more concerned about the preparedness of the country.”
His colleague Tarun Vijay blamed the government for maintaining a stony silence on the issue. “We demand that government give complete details of all ‘murky’ affairs that are happening in the Defence Ministry.”
Mr. Vijay said, “It is not the way to run the government because the whole episode is affecting the morale of the armed forces. The soldiers are fighting the enemy at the front and political masters are in ‘murky’ deals... this is affecting morale of the nation.”
On the question of leakage of the secret letter, he asked “who is benefiting from the leakage. Is this the way the government is dealing with secrecy of the nation?”