Somebody within government “had some agenda”
Five days before his controversial 26-month tenure as Army Chief comes to an end, General V.K. Singh on Saturday criticised the Defence Ministry for “selectively leaking” information to “fix” him.
In a series of interviews to TV channels, the General also made no secret of his unhappiness with the Supreme Court where he lost a legal battle over his age in February. In an apparent reference to a remark by Justice R.M. Lodha, one of the two judges on the Bench that heard his case, the Army Chief said a very senior apex court judge had told him to “blow with the wind.”
“If all of us are going to blow with the wind then we will all become muggers, we will all become corrupt,” he said, according to a transcript of his interview released by the Times Now channel.
Justice Lodha had actually remarked, “Wise men are those who move with the wind. We take pride in having [an] officer like you. Credit must go to you.”
In a separate interview to CNN-IBN, the Army Chief said he had withdrawn his petition on the age issue because the Supreme Court gave no decision. “They tried to arbitrate. Then I realised that you are fighting a system.”
During the interviews, Gen. Singh said it was not “just lobbies” working against him, but “some people are trying to protect people who are basically doing wrong things.”
Turning on the Defence Ministry, he said papers related to his age were “illegitimately” released. Some papers that should never have been released under RTI rules were released and these included a couple of pages which the Ministry itself had labelled “top secret.”
Asked if he was saying that he had been set up, the General replied, “obviously.”
When pressed to state who was releasing the information, Gen. Singh said it was the Ministry. “Absolutely,” the General answered when asked whether he was saying that information was being selectively leaked to “fix you.”
Barely concealing his anger over the leakage of his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh complaining of deficiencies and shortages in the Army, the General said this was a “treasonable act.”
He then referred to a PTI story, denied by the government, that a Joint Secretary-level officer in the Cabinet Secretariat had been held responsible for the leak.
The General said PTI did not “manufacture” stories on its own. “So somebody must have told them, somebody authoritative enough.” The leakage was done “with a purpose to create an impression that Gen. V.K. Singh is leaking it,” he said, adding, somebody within the government “had some agenda.” Asked if he would get into politics after he demits office on May 31, the Chief replied, “I haven't decided anything.”
Asked about the speculation that he might join Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, Gen. Singh said: “I don't think so. All this is speculative kite flying, to say the least. And I will not go with this kite flying.”
Referring to his allegation that retired Lt. General Tejinder Singh had offered him bribe to clear a deal for Tatra trucks, the Army Chief said he had informed Defence Minister A.K. Antony as per the Services regulations.
Apparently questioning inaction by Mr. Antony then, the General said, “He [Mr. Antony] has ordered a CBI inquiry. It could have been done earlier.”
On inaction on his own part, he said, “If he [Mr. Antony] had asked me to take action, action would have been taken. Be rest assured about it.”
He, however, went on to add that because of Mr. Antony's “blessings” the file regarding the procurement of Tatra trucks was not cleared.
With regard to the controversy over his show-cause notice to 3 Corps Commander Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, the Army Chief criticised its leakage and suggested his involvement in it.
“Who else will go [to the media]? The notice was signed by me and it is in the name of the officer [Suhag]. Who else will handle it? ... It was his responsibility to answer that show-cause notice ... But without giving an answer, somebody goes to the press and shows the show-cause notice,” Gen. Singh said, when asked whether he suspected Lt. Gen. Suhag of having leaked the notice.
He said it was “morally unacceptable that a notice from a senior officer to a junior officer has found its way into media and started getting discussed.”
Gen. Singh has since put Lt. Gen. Suhag, who could head the force in 2014 by the current succession line, on Disciplinary and Vigilance (DV) ban, by which his promotion would be stalled.
Asked what if the government overturned his decision to put Lt. Gen. Suhag on DV ban, he said, “It will be the government's decision, not mine. People will hold the government responsible for it.”
Meanwhile, the Congress has steered clear of the remarks of Gen. Singh that information was selectively leaked by the Defence Ministry to “fix” him.
“We always treat the institution of Army with utmost respect. If at all, there are certain averments which have been made the appropriate person or the authority to reply to them or rebut them is the Ministry of Defence ...
“If at all there are any questions, with regard to what may have been said by Gen. Singh, all those queries should be directed to the Ministry of Defence,” party spokesman Manish Tewari said.
However, the Secretary of AICC ex-servicemen department Captain Praveen Davar criticised the Army Chief saying Gen. Singh was “playing havoc with the system” and had “crossed the Lakshman rekha.”
He said the outgoing Army Chief was creating a “bad precedent” which would inflict “irreparable damage” to the Army establishment.