The General’s in a labyrinth
Earlier this week, even as the controversy over the army chief’s exposes and revelations was raging round the country, there was a tweet from a fake account of the PMO (with the ‘o’ in small letter but otherwise identical to the original) which said, “A senior leader of Congress has some documents and call records to prove that Army Chief is an RSS agent.”
Another tweet, I forget who it was, said, “Digvijaya Singh says he caught General Singh in the RSS HQ when he was 2 years old.”
Clearly both were meant to malign the maverick Congress leader who, to be fair to him, has not shot his mouth off on this controversy in all this time. But those tweets brought some thoughts to my mind and none of them were sympathetic to General V K Singh.
During the row over his age with the government, General Singh had mentioned that he was being treated as though he was a general of Pakistan. Not when his allegation of a bribe being offered to him surfaced but when his letter to the PM about shortages in army equipment were leaked to the media, I couldn’t help thinking that now it was he who was behaving like, well, that very Pakistani general.
Even during the age controversy, I had thought the General had had ample time to correct the discrepancy and was playing hot and cold by first accepting the official date and then reneging on his promise to abide by the records when his purpose (to become Chief of Army Staff) was served. It clearly displayed a malafide intent, craftiness and loose moral fibre. Now, while I have no dispute with his writing to the PM, the leak, if coming from his office, is an act of high treason indeed – for, for the life of me, I cannot see why either the PMO or the Defence Minister’s office should invite more opprobrium upon themselves They are already snowed under) — by engineering such an expose.
But even as the General now calls a truce with the government after some tough talking by A K Antony who earlier seemed like a weakling simply because of his non-confrontationist attitude (I agreed with Brijesh Mishra, National Security Advisor to former PM AB Vajpayee that Antony should have long ago told him to ‘go jump in the lake’ ) I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt — even though, as with politicians, he blames the entire contretemps on the media. But I fail to understand certain aspects of the events as he has laid them out.
While the source for the leaked letter might be found and plugged, I am more puzzled about why the General, who says he was offered Rs 14 crore as a bribe two years ago, failed to take action against the said former army man at the source of that bribe. The explanation that he had retired from the army simply does not wash because, even if you are not employed by the government, action can be taken against you under the existing laws — as those corporates who have recently spent many months in jail over their involvement on the 2G scam will testify.
But even more horrifying is the fact that the government entrusted the security of the nation to a man who says he failed to understand that the offer was a bribe or its intent and import at the time it was made. How was he then expected to understand the intent and import of the enemy’s actions when facing them across the border? Moreover, if he did not understand it as a bribe, why was he reporting it to the Defence Minister at all? And when he did, why did he not lodge a FIR or take action against the man? I do not agree with those critics who say the Defence Minister failed to act on the information — for to Antony it was just hearsay. It was up to the General to make good on his words with actions.
Of course, I can see that, having been crushed by the Supreme Cout’s dismissal of his case over his age, the General felt the need to get one up on those in government who had denied him another year in office. And I am willing to bet my bottom rupee that, had he had that year, he would not have been blowing any whistles at all.
I am the daughter of a defence scientist and I recall a time — when I was still in school — my father’s red rage when I and my sisters innocently accepted a box of chocolates (the kind not to be found in India at the time) from some strangers (actually defence dalals) who had come calling at our doors while all the adults in the defence colony were at the club attending a dinner do.
We opened that box and ate some of the chocolates before our parents came home so my father could not even return it – and we almost got thrashed for that. The only thing that saved us from that beating was that the children of our neighbours (my father’s colleagues) too had been bribed with the same chocolates and they had delved into their boxes, too.
We could not understand what corruption meant at the time but I remember a conference between all the parents. Result: we were, therafter, locked indoors if at all both our parents needed to be out at the same time and the security at the gates was simultaneously enhanced, not to let in even the vegetable vendors and bread-wallahs who came calling in the evenings when mothers might not be at home cooking or cleaning or supervising. And the companies those agents represented were immediately blacklisted. They also contemplated calling in the cops but dropped that idea as the event was past and we had indeed eaten those chocolates. But, as our mothers later warned us (to drill into us the import of accepting a bribe), “They could have posioned those chocolates or laced it with sleeping pills. There are people out there who do these things to kidnap you, break your arms and legs and then turn you into beggars. Do you want that to happen to you?”
In these more conscious/aware and less innocent times, then, the least the General could have done is hand over the bribe giver, then and there, to the police and not told the Defence Minister that he wanted to let it be.
I can understand the General’s need to go out with a bang rather than the whimper that the Supreme Court had reduced him to. But I just cannot fathom why, if he has such an exemplary record, General V K Singh has seemed to place only his own self over his nation every turn of the road. He has pushed himself into a maze of his own making and I wonder how he might now convince the doubters and restore the morale of the army which, as I have reason to know with some of my family still serving, is totally bushed by the turn of events.
And to those in the opposition or otherwise who might play political games over the General and call for Anthony’s resignation for his passivity in office, I would like to draw their attention to the fact that it was another defence minister, this one belonging to the NDA – George Fernandes – who sacked another service chief – Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat – in an unprecedented and so far lone act when the Admiral had tried to block a corrupt deal by the defence ministry.
At least Anthony has turned down the demands and clamour from his own party men to sack him for his insubordination and is giving the good general the benefit of doubt. I hope that faith in him is justified.