Gen. takes step back,alleges bid to create rift with minister

Statement: Chief talks of 'smear campaign,' but govt remains cool.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: March 30, 2012 10:09 pm

On a day the BJP launched a strong attack on Defence Minister A K Antony,demanding his resignation in Rajya Sabha,Army Chief Gen. V K Singh sought to lower the temperature by saying that a deliberate “smear campaign” had been launched to “project a schism” between him and the minister.

However,sources said,the government remains upset,and has refrained from reaching out to the Army Chief. It has kept interaction at the bare minimum while not violating necessary courtesies towards the Army Chief,who has two months left in the job.

In a statement issued today,Gen. Singh gave a point-by-point clarification on questions raised over the timing of his revelation of the bribery attempt,and the leak of the confidential letter he had written to the Prime Minister about the Army’s war preparedness. A deliberate attempt to cause harm was afoot,and the elements running the “smear campaign” needed to be exposed,Gen. Singh said.

The Army Chief said that action was taken immediately after the bribe offer on behalf of truckmaker Tatra came in September last year,but he had decided to name retired officer Lt Gen. Tejinder Singh after a probe by the Army revealed that he was behind a “smear campaign” that alleged snooping by the Army on the defence ministry.

“It is pointed out that after the matter was brought to the minister’s notice,certain steps had been taken institutionally to keep a wary eye on the retired officer who had offered the bribe. Eighteen months later,the person resurfaced in the beginning of March this year and launched a smear campaign under the veil of anonymity alleging that the Army was snooping on the minister,” the Chief said,adding that once Army HQ identified the “concerned individual”,his “identity and antecedents” were made public.

“There have been a string of selected leaks in the past,culminating with the public airing of the letter to the Prime Minister… we have to identify and within the confines of the system and the law,expose these elements,” Gen. Singh said.

“There are some elements in our society which have played an active role in trying to project a schism between the minister and the Army Chief. This is untrue and needs to be guarded against,” the statement said. The Army Chief,it said,is “duty bound” to serve the nation and to protect the institutional integrity of the Army at all cost,even if it sometimes means looking within.

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