Lt Gen Raj Kadyan,president of the Indian Ex-Servicemen Movement,on General V K Singh,his personal issues and the ex-servicemens rallies he has been addressing.
You were one of the most vocal supporters of General V K Singh on the age row. Do you still stand by that after what happened in the Supreme Court and later?
I am still convinced from the documents I have seen that he was born in 1951 and he rightly fought for justice. But,we also have to accept that not everyone gets justice. He had a good fight and I wish he had not withdrawn his petition. The court got away without giving a judgment. He was not just an individual,he was also the Army chief. So that was not the best option for him. He kept saying he was fighting for honour,but honour is not fought with any deadline.
Should he have first resigned and then approached the Supreme Court?
Yes. The individual V K Singh is one thing and General V K Singh the Army chief is quite another. It did hurt the image of the Army. The Army chief fighting the government sends out a very wrong signal. If the fight was for honour,he would have commanded much more respect if he had resigned. Willy nilly,people will draw the conclusion that as long as he had something to gain from the government,he kept quiet,and when he achieved everything that he could,he went back on his word.
There has been talk about a civilian-military divide.
He was a good chief. He started with a very novel idea,that he wanted to clean or improve the internal health of the Army. And he did a lot in that respect… But somewhere along the line,his personal issue got involved. I still feel that maturity demanded that he walked up to the defence minster and told him that this issue needs to be sorted out and that I need your help. If the minister had come back to him saying sorry,that this is beyond me,things should have been quietly dealt with. That would have been the graceful thing to do.
The developments since he has been taking a lot of interest in ex-servicemen,the timing of it,he has been addressing rallies in March,April,May it is difficult to avoid the inference that this is happening after he lost the case. After all,as Army chief,he is the father of the ex-servicemen community. He should have been doing this all along in his tenure. Now,there is an impression that he is doing all this because he lost in the Supreme Court… All his contacts with ex-servicemen have started after February 10. If it was a continuing effort before and after that,it would have been a better signal. Also,if you see the timings and locations of the rallies,he has done one in Gurgaon and now another one is planned in Jhajjar. All this gives the impression that the aim of these contact programmes is not only the welfare of ex-servicemen.
One of the strongest pillars of the Army has been its secular nature. So,even if his enthusiastic supporters do something which unwittingly erodes that pillar,he must publicly distance himself from it that will send a good signal. It is wrong to be associated openly with crusaders. Ramdev and Anna are doing a good job in the fight against corruption but to be associated [with them while in uniform is not at par with the ethics of the Army. The Army chief needs to make a public statement that these rallies are not encouraged or accepted.
How do you see his position now?
I did and still support him on the age issue. There is also the fact that there is a strong arms lobby. Tatra is now a famous case. That these arms lobbies must be targeting him,there is no doubt. I only wish he had pursued this more vigorously. When it [the alleged bribe offer on behalf of Tatra was disclosed 18 months later,the timing became suspect. It became a retaliatory action rather than a desire to clean the system. That is the impression that would go around.
The other part is his highlighting of the deficiencies in the Army. The act of writing to the PM was not exceptional. But,the man who leaked the letter has done a great service to the nation. Now,the country is aware of the deficiencies.
On the age issue I support him,on the anti-corruption drive I support him. But what is happening now whether with his concurrence or without but certainly with his knowledge I dont support. These kinds of rallies are doing no good to the image of the Army… He has the full right to join politics. My concern is that to protect the dignity of the office,nothing must be done while you are still in uniform to further that intent,if you do have that intent.
What is your view of the rallies being organised by close family members in support of the Army chief?
These rallies, when organised by any close relative,will be deemed to have his concurrence. If it has been done without his knowledge… he should have said publicly that he does not support it. Since he has not said so,willy nilly it is deemed to have his blessings,which I think is not a good idea.