Supporters say Arun Singh's appointment
would not hinder Fernandes's functioning
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
The appointment of former minister of state for defence, Arun Singh, as executive assistant to Minister of External Affairs Jaswant Singh in no way hinders the functioning of Defence Minister George Fernandes, close aides of the defence minister said today.
Newspaper reports had speculated that Arun Singh's appointment was intended to clip Fernandes's wings.
While the defence minister himself was not available for comment, his supporters reacted angrily. "Fernandes is a senior minister in the government. There is no question of his wings being clipped by an appointment in the ministry of external affairs. All reports saying that the defence minister's functioning might be curtailed are mischievous and highly speculative," a close aide of Fernandes said.
He pointed out that during various crises the Vajpayee government faced, Fernandes had played a major role and enjoyed the confidence of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. He sought to emphasise that Fernandes had won the prime minister's approval with his deft handling of the Bhagwat affair.
Referring to the Kargil conflict, the defence minister's aides said that Fernandes had won the respect and admiration of the Indian armed forces by his fearless approach to the dangers facing the country. They stressed that an increasing number of armed forces personnel, especially army officers, had openly come out in support of the defence minister for his handling of the conflict and his appreciation of the role of the armed forces.
Meanwhile, it was learnt that the BJP leadership was also gearing up to corner the Congress, especially its party chief Sonia Gandhi, on the Bofors deal. A BJP vice-president claimed that the Vajpayee government was keen on a debate on the Kargil issue because it would provide it with a chance to confront the Congress with news facts on the Bofors deal.
The Kargil Crisis
Tell us what you think of this report