Most members of the erstwhile Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence declined to respond to Manish Tewari’s remarks.
A senior MP belonging to a small party, who was a member of the Standing Committee in 2012, told The Indian Express on condition of anonymity that there was indeed a “fiery meeting” in April at which he, along with Tewari, had confronted Defence Ministry officials seeking the veracity of the reported troop movement. “We asked the then defence secretary (Shashi Kant Sharma), who had come to brief the committee, about the report. He sought some time to get back. Later, he told the committee that it (troop movement) did not happen the way it was being portrayed. Clearly, there was some movement from Agra. It was like half acceptance and half denial,” the MP said.
Tewari’s party colleague Kamal Kishor “Commando” said a discussion did take place. “As far as I remember, there was a condemnation of the newspaper report by the committee. It was not a good thing. There was an allegation against him (the then Army chief Gen V K Singh). But I will have to see the minutes to tell you all the details,” said the former MP from Bahraich.
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Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was a Rajya Sabha member and was among the BJP representatives in the committee, told The Indian Express that as far as he remembered, no discussion on the incident took place at any meeting. “In any case”, he said, “discussions held during standing committee meetings are confidential, which cannot be made public”. As for Defence Ministry officials privately confirming the unauthorised troop movement towards Delhi, he said, “Nobody said anything of the sort to me.”
Harish Chowdhary (Congress), who was a member of the committee, said there was no such mention in the committee. “If somebody had told something to someone in private, I don’t know… but nothing of that sort came up in the committee. There was no such development.”
T K Rangarajan of the CPM said, “I don’t recollect anything. A Standing Committee is a mini Parliament. We discuss so many issues… it is difficult to remember.”
Avinash Rai Khanna of the BJP said: “I don’t remember exactly. But I will check the records and if the rules permit me to talk on this, I will get back to you.”
Shivaji Adhalrao Patil of the Shiv Sena and Sher Singh Gubaya of the Akali Dal said separately that nothing concerning the movement of Army personnel was discussed in their presence.
BJP MP Varun Gandhi, who also served the committee, said he did not remember anything on the issue being mentioned at a meeting or on the sidelines of a meeting. “And it is too significant not to remember, had it figured anywhere.” But he said it was possible that the matter had come up at a meeting which he had not attended.
The Standing Committee report on Demands for Grants (2012-13), which was presented to the Lok Sabha on April 29, 2012, said: “As stated by the Secretary, the media report was based on wrong inferences, surmises and conjectures and is strongly dismissed.”
It recorded: “…Some Members of the Committee raised the issue of controversial reporting of Army exercises held in foggy weather during January 2012 by a leading newspaper. Since the news-item assumed special significance, the Defence Secretary was asked to give clarification… The Committee were not satisfied with the clarification and asked the Secretary to explain the detailed factual position… at sitting scheduled to be held on the 9th of April, 2012.
Accordingly, the Secretary… stated: “… Mobilisation forms an important facet of training… These are carried out in routine manner by various formations and units…”