Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi asks if PM Modi will remove VK Singh from his council of ministers

Voices Wednesday, June 11, 2014 - 05:30
By Priyanka Chaturvedi When was the last time you saw a Union Minister take to twitter to attack the reputation of a sitting army commander and army chief designate? Never in independent India's history has this happened. And the reason for it has been the prudent, unwritten custom of keeping our armed forces out of politics, followed by all parties since independence. The BJP, under Mr Modi, was the first major party in India's history to break away from that custom by including a recently retired army chief --- that too, a controversial one --- in the party and give him a ticket in the Lok Sabha elections. VK Singh won the elections and was inducted by PM Modi in his council of ministers. That Singh did not get the defence ministry was a saving grace. But two ministries that he holds charge of --- North east region and external affairs --- still require close cooperation with the defence ministry. More interestingly, a so-called decisive PM like Modi, who came with a full majority in the Lok Sabha, was unable to find a full-time Defence Minister for the country. So much for giving highest priority to India's national security. Those who were blinded by the puff pieces being headlined in the media were unable to see that the seeds of a crisis were being planted there. And it barely took two weeks for the crisis to erupt. In an affidavit filed in the court case challenging the appointment of Lt General Dalbir Suhag as the next army chief, Modi Sarkar said this about General VK Singh, then army chief, imposing a Discipline and Vigilance ban on Suhag: “The alleged lapses observed by the then COAS, as reflected in show cause notice, were premeditated and issued in utter disregard to the legal provisions governing the court of inquiry, principles of natural justice… the lapses were vague, based on presumptions and legally and factually not maintainable.” As an outcome of this affidavit filed by his own government, VK Singh took to Twitter and started attacking Suhag: “If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organization tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!’ Under a 'strong' PM, we have the spectacle of his minister calling the next army chief a criminal. If this doesn't call for a dismissal of the minister by the PM, then what else does? It is for the PM to realise that this goes beyond the persons and parties involved. It is about the reputation, the dignity, integrity and the credibility of the Indian Army and the institution of the army chief. Imagine a new chief whose subordinates know that he doesn't have the trust of his political masters. And one of the ministers publicly calls him a criminal. Surely Indian Army and its chief deserves better than this. India's enemies --- and notwithstanding the twitpics of saree-shawl exchange, we have many --- would be happy to see this ugly spectacle. We should not be surprised to see the minister's comments against the incoming army chief being used by our adversaries to tarnish the reputation of one of our finest institutions. There are those who argue that the previous UPA government should have sacked VK Singh as army chief when he took the government to court. It is wisdom in hindsight because Singh would have then become a martyr and a more dangerous political pawn in the hands of the BJP. In any case, it is far easier for the PM to sack a minister than a government to sack an army chief. We can't turn the clock back but we can certainly look at the present. And the present situation, notwithstanding Arun Jaitley's statement in the Rajya Sabha earlier today, is that Union minister VK Singh still stands by his statement calling the army chief designate a criminal. Mr Jaitley forgets that the real issue is neither the appointment of the next army chief nor the contents of the affidavit filed by the Modi government. The real issue is a Union Minister's attempts to shame the Indian Army. This warrants immediate action from the Prime Minister. Anything less than the removal of VK Singh from the council of ministers would send a wrong message to the Indian Army, and the country at large. We are watching, Mr 'decisive' PM. Please act. Now. Priyanka Chaturvedi is a blogger, columnist and is on the panel of spokespersons of the All India Congress Committee. The opinions expressed in this articles are the personal opinions of the author. The News Minute is not responsible for the accuracy, completeness, suitability or validity of any information in this article. The information, facts or opinions appearing in this article do not reflect the views of The News Minute and The News Minute does not assume any liability on the same.

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