Should the Army Chief at all have admitted that such payments were made, asks Jaitley
Even as Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde asked the former Army Chief Gen. (retd.) V.K. Singh to disclose names of Jammu and Kashmir Ministers who were allegedly paid money by the Army, an embarrassed BJP distanced itself from Gen. Singh’s statements.
Since Gen. Singh shared the dais with the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a rally in Rewari (Haryana) on September 15, there has been speculation in a section of the media that the former Army chief could join the party. Neither Gen. Singh nor the BJP has refuted the speculation.
Asked about Gen. Singh’s statement on payments allegedly made to J & K Ministers by the Army, Mr. Shinde said, “V.K. Singh should name politicians … He should reveal the names [of those to whom money was allegedly paid]. If details are given, we can investigate [the matter].”
Referring to the demand by the National Conference president and Union Minister Farooq Abdullah for a CBI probe into the matter, Mr. Shinde said he did not receive any communication from the Jammu and Kashmir government or anyone else in this regard. “I am yet to get details of the allegations made by V.K. Singh on payments made to Jammu and Kashmir Ministers … We can probe if details are given,” he added.
Call for restraint
However, Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh cautioned the former Army chief to refrain from discussing the sensitive issue in “public” as the matter was related to national security. “Anyone who has served in the Army and that too in such a top post should not be talking like this … There should be restraint,” he observed, and said the Ministry of Defence and the Army were looking into the matter.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, maintaining that he was in no position to throw light on the truth or otherwise of the charges made by Gen. Singh, indirectly questioned whether he should have admitted that such payments were made. “Should such information have been leaked out by the political establishment which had a problem with the former Army Chief? Pushed to a corner, should the Army Chief have admitted that such payments were indeed made? The UPA government has abandoned its statecraft. It does not mind if the country is hurt as long as the UPA can score points when faced with a certain electoral defeat,” he said.
In an article, ‘Uncovering Covert Operations,’ he accused the UPA government of leaking out “covert operations” in two cases, the other being Ishrat Jehan “for narrow political interest.”
On Gen. Singh’s statement on payments being made in States, he said nobody was entitled to know the details of these activities. “The right to information cannot apply to these activities. The CBI cannot invoke its investigative jurisdiction to start investigating whether secret funds have been properly spent by the Intelligence Bureau, the RAW or the Military Intelligence or by any other agency. All these activities are neither accountable to Parliament nor judicially justiciable. These are a part of the covert operations.”
Mr. Jaitley said the desirability and the appropriateness of these activities were a subject matter for the government of the day to decide. Prime Ministers, Home Ministers, Defence Ministers, Chief of the Army staff, heads of IB and R & AW and several others in the government were privy to information which must necessarily die with them. “It even cannot become a part of their memoirs,” he said.
Earlier, Mr. Farooq Abdullah said: “I think time has come when a CBI inquiry should be held immediately to see what is the funding that the Army has done and who are the people who received these funds and how these funds have been utilised ... I feel extremely sad that the Army has utilised money for political purposes which is extremely bad for the nation. .”