Retired General V K Singh,who fought a bitter legal battle with the defence ministry over his disputed date of birth,has claimed that he was advised by then President Pratibha Patil not to resign as Army Chief a day after he withdrew his petition in the case.
Recalling the events of February 2012 when he had approached the SC on the age row the first serving armed forces chief to do so Singh has written in his autobiography,Courage and Conviction,that the court hearing came as a big blow and he thought of putting in his papers.
But he quickly brushed that thought aside as doing so would have meant playing into the hands of those who were calling the shots,he has said.
Describing a meeting with then President Patil,a day after the SC hearing at which he withdrew the petition,Singh has said the events in court created a buzz and sent all media organisations into a frenzy.
They were now drawing comparisons between Gen. Thimayyas case in 1961 and it seemed they would only rest if I went in a blaze of glory having handed in my resignation to the Government of India. The media fortunately was not aware of my having met the president,Her Excellency Pratibha Patil,after I returned from Jaipur.
I was scheduled to leave on an official tour of the UK the next morning. I hope you are not thinking of resigning,said the president,pointing out the importance of the official visit starting the next day. If you do that,history will say you were only interested in your age extension. You must carry on the work you are doing, he has written.
The Indian Express shared the claim of the former General with Patil,through a close relative of hers and sought her comment. But she did not respond.
Singh has also said that a very senior bureaucrat in the PMO was orchestrating the entire age issue and has suggested that he was targeted by him for blocking the Tatra truck deal.
Singh has said the bureaucrat dropped hints that the age issue had been raked up by one of the former chiefs at the behest of the wife of a very important political personality.
Detailing his view on the date of birth controversy,Singh has alleged that former Army Chief Gen. J J Singh had initiated a look down policy to create a line of succession and that the age issue was aimed at cutting down his tenure by one year to remove impediments from the path of the officer on whom the chief had his eye – a veiled reference to Gen. Bikram Singhs appointment to the top job.
The retired General has described Defence Minister A K Antony as a good human being who had good intentions but has also said that he was a victim unable to break free of the shackles of babudom and that bureaucrats were adept at playing him.
Singh has made repeated references to a senior bureaucrat at the PMO and said that he was advised by those in the know of the procurement business that the Tatra trial goes right up to a very high official in the PMO.
There was very little doubt that a very senior bureaucrat in the PMO was orchestrating the entire age issue. Ever since I had blocked the Tatra files,the name of this person had been cropping up regularly. Not only was he directly involved with PSUs where there was direct evidence linking him to plots given to his family in the BEML complex,almost every move of the government seemed to originate from the same shadowy quarters, the book says.
In what was obviously a smokescreen,around that time,I was approached with a bribe to clear the Tatra files. The bureaucrat had also been dropping hints that the age issue had been raked up by one of the former chiefs at the behest of the wife of a very important political personality, the book says.
While the official has not been named,it was reported in 2012 that relatives of the PMs then principal secretary and now advisor,T K A Nair,were allegedly allotted plots irregularly in BEML areas,a charge Nair had then dismissed as baseless.
Nair refused to comment on the contents of Singhs book.
Gen. Singh has also sought to justify the last minute action and show-cause notice he issued to Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh the Eastern Army Commander who is slated to be the next Chief – for a botched up intelligence operation.
Singh has claimed that he received a call from Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi who complained that only perfunctory steps had been taken against Col. Sreekumar,the commanding officer of an intelligence unit in the 3 Corps commanded by Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag,whose people stole a variety of electronic items and a licensed pistol during a raid in Jorhat.
V K Singh has written that he spoke to Dalbir Singh about this and told him covering up was not acceptable.
Suhag once again hemmed and hawed and eventually the BGS III Corps passed some mild strictures against Sreekumar that actually had no meaning, V K Singh has written.
Reached for his comment,Gogoi told The Indian Express he had not seen or read V K Singhs autobiography. But he said it was true he had called up the General.
I did call up General V K Singh to tell him that appropriate action under the law should be taken against the particular officers if they are found guilty in the particular case involving the 3 Corps. The General in return promised me that he would take action according to the law, Gogoi said Thursday.
On military intelligence unit TSD: Singh claims that after the November 2008 Mumbai terror attack,the national security advisor had asked then Army Chief Deepak Kapoor if the Army could create an organisation with covert capability to hit back at Pakistan but Kapoor was not receptive to the project. He claims that after taking over,he revived the project and asked then DG MI Lt. Gen. Loomba to establish it.
On North East trilogy book that created a controversy: Singh says he thought of the project as it would change the entire perception of the region. He says the project was slotted under perception management and that he told his officer that this is a Psy Ops (Psychological Operation). And this time our target is our own country. The trilogy was written by Kunal Verma,who has also co-authored the autobiography.
On bribe offer by Lt. Gen. (retd) Tejinder Singh:
Without naming the officer,V K Singh refers to him as the middleman who came on September 22,2010. After some general talk,the middleman came to the point. There is a file with you on Tatra. If the file is passed,you will get Rs 14 crores. I found myself staring at him. It was like someone punching you in the solar plexus. The middleman was looking at me intently. You dont need to get angry,sir. Aap ke pehle bhi log bagh lete rahen hai,aap ke baad bhi log bagh lete rahenge. (People have been taking a cut before you,and people will continue to take a cut after you as well). Just get out of my office,I managed to tell him,get out and never come again, V K Singh has written.
On Tatra scandal: Singh claims that a senior opposition leader told him off record,General saab,lapetna tha tho aapne Tatra kyon pakra? Isme hum halla machayenge to hum bhi phaste hain (If you had to rake it up,why did you go after Tatra? We will also get caught if we make noise over this).
On people targeting him: Sukhna,Adarsh,Tatra,arms deals: the same people were involved,different circles with overlapping areas of interest,yet with a common core supporting them.