A controversy broke out on Friday over a report in The Indian Express which, quoting a secret Army report, said the former Army Chief, General V.K. Singh, had set up Technical Services Division, a secret intelligence unit, and misused secret funds to try and topple the Omar Abdullah government, and to try and change the line of succession in the Army’s brass.
The report sent the political temperatures soaring and a slugfest erupted between the Congress and the BJP. While the BJP questioned the timing of the report and cautioned the UPA government against “undermining” institutions such as the defence forces, the Congress strongly refuted the charge that the report was part of a vendetta. The BJP claimed that General (retired) Singh was being “hounded” for sharing the platform with its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi at a recent rally of ex-servicemen in Haryana.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said: “Nothing can be more baseless and laughable than this allegation. The UPA government never engages in politics on the sensitive issue of security ... In such sensitive matters, the government has a responsibility to discharge its duty, which it will do with full responsibility.”
The Army report was “under active consideration of the government” and appropriate action would be initiated against the guilty. He said he found it surprising that “whenever there is an allegation regarding the alleged subversion of an institution … the BJP is found jumping to the defence of such individuals.”
He hoped that “behind all these incidents, there is not the alleged invisible hand of the BJP and, of course, the spectre and shadow of the RSS always looming in the background.”
The government admitted to having received a report from the Army headquarters on “certain issues relating to one of its outfits, as reported in a section of the media.”
The Defence Ministry said in a statement, “The report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further action after a careful examination of the report.” The government had in place measures to prevent any such “undesirable activities.” It clarified that it had not taken any decision on a CBI inquiry into the issues raised in the Army’s report, which said the TSD (Technical Services Division) was involved in unauthorised operations and financial wrongdoings.
The report was prepared by Director-General (Military Operations) Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia as part of a Board of Officers inquiry formed by Army Chief General Bikram Singh to review the functioning of the top secret unit set up during the tenure of his predecessor. The report was submitted to the Defence Ministry in March and is learnt to have recommended a probe by an external agency like the CBI.
At a press conference, BJP’s national spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the allegations, levelled in the report, were of “very serious nature.” She questioned the government as to who stopped it from taking appropriate action when the report was submitted to it in March.
“To see a BJP conspiracy in every one of this government’s failure highlights how this government is fast losing the trust of people. The BJP cautions the government that they stop playing with the morale of the defence forces by hitting them purely because they have difficulties handling a retired or a serving chief of the armed force,” she said.
The Indian Army, unlike some armies in the neighbourhood, had kept best of traditions and proudly served under elected civilian governments, she said. She hit out at the UPA government for undermining institutions such as the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and the Central Vigilance Commission.