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PM, political class upset over army chief's action

March 28, 2012 19:35 IST

Asking Army Chief Gen V K Singh to go on forced leave is one of the options before the government, which is more than upset over the leakage 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 are 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 National Security Advisor separately.

The government's view in the matter will be crystallised when the issue is expected to come up in Lok Sabha on Thursday.

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 succintly. "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 are any shorcomings in the defence preparedess, then it is the army chief who is to be blamed as he heads the organisation.

Rajya Sabha saw a rare unanimity between the government and the Opposition over the controversy with Janata Dal-United demanding dismissal of the army chief for "gross indiscipline" while Biju Janata Dal also maintaining that the government should take immediate action of sacking whoever has to be sacked.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former Defence Minister Jaswant Singh had given a notice for 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, Rashtriya Janata Dal 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 is time the general realises that his actions have antagonised the entire political class, which is not happy with the situation arising out of the controversy.

"He should realise 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," said a party leader said on the condition of anonymity.

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