PM upset over Army chief’s action,govt weighs options

Govt mulls 2 options -- to tolerate Army chief till his retirement or force him to go on leave.

Written by Agencies | New Delhi | Published: March 28, 2012 7:33:18 pm

Asking Army chief General V K Singh to go on a forced leave is one of the options before the government,which is more than upset over the leak of his letter to the Prime Minister projecting the country’s defence preparedness in poor light.

A minister who declined to be identified said as of now,there were only two options before the government “tolerate the Army Chief till his retirement due in the next two months or force him to go on leave”.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is upset over the Army chief’s action but the government was not thinking of any drastic step as it was not seeing the issue in terms of an officer but in terms of an office.

“No sacking” was the refrain of another senior minister,who said that the General has violated Army discipline by writing directly to the Prime Minister and not through the Defence Minister.

Incidentally,Gen Singh had done a similar thing during the row over his age.

The latest controversy was the worst thing that could have happened to the government at a time when it was hosting leaders of the BRICS nations,including China.

The Prime Minister held deliberations with Defence Minister A K Antony and Home Minister P Chidambaram in Parliament as the issue rocked the Rajya Sabha in morning.

Antony also held discussions on the matter with the NSA separately.

The government’s view in the matter will be crystalized when the issue is expected to come up in Lok Sabha tomorrow.

The General’s actions are the result of his failure to get one more year in service is the view of the government.

Minister of Overseas Affairs Vayalar Ravi put it more succinctly. “I do not know what is the issue. I have not seen the letter. The Army is a disciplined force. (He) could not get an extension even by the court. May be a frustrated man suffers,” Ravi said.

Asked if Gen Singh should have written to Defence Minister A K Antony instead of the Prime Minister on the issue,Ravi said,”That is the maryada. But I am saying… whatever he does is action of a frustrated individual.”

A minister also pointed out that if there were any shortcomings in the defence preparedness,it is the Army chief who is to be blamed as he heads the organization.

Rajya Sabha saw a rare unanimity between the government and Opposition over the controversy with JD-U demanding dismissal of the Army chief for “gross indiscipline” while BJD also maintaining that the government should take immediate action of sacking whoever has to be sacked.

Senior BJP leader and former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh had given a notice for the suspension of Question Hour in the Lok Sabha but it could not be taken up as the row over Telangana forced repeated adjournments in the House.

Talking to reporters outside Parliament,RJD chief Lalu Prasad said,”He (General) should be sacked immediately. Why he was silent all these days if there was shortage of ammunition.” Prasad suspected that the General could be doing all this as he wanted to fight elections.

Buoyed by the Opposition support,a minister said it was time the General realizes that his actions had antagonized the entire political class,which was not happy with the situation arising out of the controversy.

“He should realize that the government has the mandate of the nation to take action” he said.

Congress also echoed similar views but advocated a cautious approach as it felt that his dismissal was not an answer.

“Dismissal will create one more problem. It will set a wrong precedent. What impression will go outside if Army Chief is dismissed. Even otherwise he is going to retire in the next two months. The Army Chief should carry on unless he creates some another problem in future,” a party leader said on the condition of anonymity.

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