A day after the Government, in which he is a Minister, termed his last actions as Army Chief against Lt Gen Dalbir Singh as “illegal”, “extraneous” and “premeditated,” Minister of State and former Army chief V K Singh hit back by attacking the officer who is now the Army chief designate, accusing him of trying to protect a unit that “kills innocents,” and “does dacoity.”
In a direct attack on Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, who has incidentally been given a go-ahead by Defence Minister Arun Jaitley to take over as the Army Chief on July 31, Singh tweeted: “If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organization tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!’
Singh is a Minister of State with Development of North Eastern Region (independent charge), External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs as his portfolios.
Taking charge last month, Jaitley had said that there was no objection of the BJP on the officer stated to be the chief. He said that the only objection had been on the propriety of rushing through with the appointment but this was, in no way, meant to reflect on the person (Dalbir Singh) under consideration.
Singh’s attack came even as the Congress demanded his resignation arguing that the NDA Government’s affidavit in the Supreme Court on the issue of Army vice chief Dalbir Singh Suhag’s promotion as Army commander was a “direct vote of no confidence” against him.
In its affidavit to the Supreme Court on Monday, the Ministry of Defence had defended Suhag’s promotion and described the disciplinary ban on him by Singh as Army chief as “illegal”, “extraneous” and “premeditated”. It also said the the disciplinary proceedings against Suhag between April and May 2012 by Singh was “without any basis or material on record”.
When told about Singh’s remarks against the Army chief designate, Government spokesman and I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar declined to comment.
The Congress stepped up its attack. “After this vote of no confidence by the Government in a solemnly sworn affidavit against its own member of its council of ministers, is it possible for the minister in the union council of continue…I don’t think in any view of the matter that the member of the council of ministers can continue. It is a matter of detail whether he is removed or resigns,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
V K Singh tweeted in reply: “All who got carried away by Singhvi’s tirade. Chhaj to bole so bole woh chhalni kya bole jismen 1800 chhed (pot calling the kettle black)…MOD affidavit same as it gave to AFT under protective and conniving UPA, so what is new folks?”
Defence Ministry officials said that the affidavit was based on the considered legal opinion on the matter that had been presented to the AFT (armed forces tribunal) in the past and that the government cannot change its views on legal matters while going to a higher court. They, however, declined to comment on what V K Singh tweeted today.
The government affidavit came in response to a petition by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane, who alleged favouritism in selection of Suhag as Army commander — making him next in line to succeed General Bikram Singh.
In his last days in office in May 2012, V K Singh had effectively tried to block the appointment of Suhag as the Eastern Army Commander that would have put him out of contention for the top post.
A show-cause notice was issued by V K Singh alleging that Lt Gen Dalbir Singh, then 3 Corps Commander, had not taken action against an intelligence unit that allegedly conducted an illegal raid in Jorhat in December 2011 in which items were reportedly stolen from the house of a contractor.
The notice was withdrawn in a few days after V K Singh retired. Since then, it has turned out that Dalbir Singh was on leave when the said incident occurred and that action was taken against a soldier for stealing, among other things, a mobile phone. The soldier has since been dismissed from service and several officers were punished.