Striking a balanced note, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday said it was “assured” by clarifications from the Army and government on reports of troop movement to the capital but insisted that the Prime Minister should proactively restore the equilibrium between the Defence Ministry and armed forces.
“There are reports today in a newspaper of unusual movement of Army units around Delhi in January. Both the government and the army have categorically denied it. We are assured to learn about this denial,” BJP Chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said at a press conference.
A newspaper report had stated that two military units had moved towards New Delhi on the night of January 16 as part of a routine exercise which had “spooked” the Defence Ministry. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Defence Minister A.K. Antony and the Army have denied the report.
While being cautious and responsible on the issue, BJP did not let go of an opportunity to hit out at the government. It heaped praise on the Army for its sacrifice and professionalism but made a scathing attack on the government for failing to check its growing differences with the Army.
“We must ensure — and that is indeed very important — that there is no room or apprehension for any sponsored story.
The relationship between the army and the political leadership of the country is at an all-time low. This is a matter of very deep concern,” Mr. Prasad said.
BJP demanded that the “equilibrium” between the civilian leadership and the Army must be restored.
“We want the government to be more proactive. Several questions have arisen about the Army. The Prime Minister has spoken one or two lines today after a long silence. We expect he will speak more on this sensitive issue and play a more proactive role... This must end,” Mr. Prasad said.
Mr. Prasad termed the differences between the Army Chief and the Defence Minister as a “sad story”.
“The armed forces are one of the most important institutions of the country. They secure the country and give us safety by their sacrifice. We need to trust and respect the professionalism of the armed forces. Under our democratic set-up they work under civilian control,” Mr. Prasad said.
BJP alleged that the UPA government has failed on several fronts and the Army appears to be one of the institutions which is bearing the brunt of this.
“UPA has messed up a whole lot of things in governance because of incapacity of political leadership, governance deficit, and a whole range of confusion which marks its working style. I regret to say that even the Army has become a victim of that. This is not in the country’s interest,” Mr. Prasad said.
Meanwhile, BJP distanced itself from the statement of its Secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Balbir Punj, who had demanded the resignation of Army Chief General V.K. Singh, holding him responsible for the movement of the two military units to the capital in January.
“What I have said is the official version of the BJP. I am speaking here as the general secretary and chief spokesperson of the party,” Mr. Prasad said.
Mr. Prasad had steered clear of demanding the resignation of the Army Chief and the Defence Minister on this issue.