Govt in a fix on handling the Army Chief
Asking Army Chief Gen VK Singh to go on forced leave is one of the options before the Government, which is more than upset over the leakage of his letter to the Prime Minister projecting the country's defence preparedness in poor light.
Opinions were divided on Wednesday on the future of Army Chief V.K. Singh with the SP and the JD(U) saying he should be sacked after his letter to the Prime Minister on shortage of ammunition in the forces came out in open but the BJP saying it did not support the demand.
As the uproar over the letter led to angry scenes in the Rajya Sabha, Janata Dal-United leader Shivanand Tiwari was the first to demand the sacking of the army chief. "This is a matter of serious indiscipline, the army chief should be sacked... if we don't take an action, it can become a bad tradition," said Tiwari.
Echoing him, Samajwadi Party leader Ramgopal Yadav told reporters outside Parliament that "responsibility should be fixed and strict action should be taken. If Gen Singh is responsible, he must be sacked and jailed". The main opposition BJP took a slightly different view. Asked about the stand taken by ally JD(U), BJP spokesperson Ravishankar Prasad said: "We do not share the view."
Leaders from the Left demanded a thorough inquiry and said strict action should be taken. They were joined by the Biju Janta Dal (BJD). "Examine into the leak, fix responsibility and punish whosoever is responsible," CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechuri said.
VK Singh, in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has pointed out a shortage of arms and ammunition in the armed forces and questioned if the country is ready for a war. According to reports, the letter, which was written March 12, states that army tanks in the country have run out of ammunition. The Army chief has been raising some issue or other ever since he lost his appeal over age of retirement. He has become a major political and defence embarrassment.
His bribery charge against a retired General for clearance of sub-standard trucks has already rocked Parliament with the CBI looking for proof of the Army Chief’s allegation.
A minister said as of now there are only two options before the Government "tolerate the Army Chief till his retirement due in the next two months or force him to go on leave".
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is upset over the Army Chief's action but the government was not thinking of any drastic step as it was not seeing the issue in terms of an officer but in terms of an office. "No sacking" was the refrain of another senior minister, who said that the General has violated army discipline by writing directly to the Prime Minister and not through the Defence Minister.
Incidentally, Gen Singh had done a similar thing during the row over his age. The latest controversy was the worst thing that could have happened to the government at a time when it was hosting leaders of the BRICS nations including China. The Prime Minister held deliberations with Defence Minister AK Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram in Parliament as the issue rocked the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. Antony also held discussions on the matter with the NSA separately.
The General's actions are seen as the result of his failure to get one more year in service. Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi put it more bluntly. "I do not know what is the issue. I have not seen the letter. The army is a disciplined force. (He) could not get an extension even by the court. May be a frustrated man suffers," Ravi said.
- Asian Tribune -