Demanding an explanation from the Prime Minister on the charge made by Army Chief V.K. Singh in an interview to The Hindu that he was offered a bribe of Rs. 14 crore, the Bharatiya Janata Party said on Monday that it reflected the sorry state of governance by the United Progressive Alliance even on a sensitive issue like defence.
The Congress, however, was guarded in its response, maintaining that it was not proper to comment on defence matters. At the same time, the party said the Defence Ministry would appropriately look into the matter if there was a complaint.
The Communist Party of India had questioned why the Army Chief chose to raise the issue at a juncture when the Defence Ministry had turned down his claim on date of birth and wondered what Gen. Singh had done about the matter earlier.
At a news conference here, the former Defence Minister and senior BJP leader, Jaswant Singh, while expressing his disappointment at the Army Chief's decision to go public, was scathing in his criticism of Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
Mr. Jaswant Singh charged that the Defence Minister's ‘inaction and indecision' and his style of functioning was proving extremely costly for the country. “This is no way to run a key Ministry like Defence.”
Raising a series of questions on the issues raised by Gen. Singh in his interview, Mr. Jaswant Singh wondered if the Army Chief was compelled to go public on the alleged bribe offer because the response of the Minister was ‘so inadequate and so ineffective.'
The BJP leader wanted to know what the Minister did when Gen. Singh reported the matter to him and why the Army Chief himself did not immediately have the person offering the bribe arrested.
Mr. Jaswant Singh said that some of the other aspects of the interview on “substandard” equipment brought at exorbitant prices, “no proper facilities” for servicing and maintenance raised serious questions.
Without elaborating, the BJP leader said that on a representation by an MP questioning the methodology of induction of more aircraft, the Defence Ministry had initiated an inquiry.
To repeated queries why there was a delay by the Defence Ministry to order a probe though the complaint was made one and half years ago, Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said: “I have said what my party's stand is. Do not drag me into facts which I do not know.”
CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta said Gen. Singh was quiet all this while and he had now gone public on the issue after a decision on his age was taken. “Why did he not say it before… It indicates something is wrong... I must assume there are more officers like him who are not saying truth.”