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Is the leak of Army Chief General V K Singh's letter the last straw that faces the government to take action? Sheela Bhatt explains the factors at play.
After the leak of the letter written by Army Chief General V K Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh it is difficult to see how army chief can continue in his post.
Unless he 'retreats' from his combative position the peace is unlikely to return to ministry of defence.
Politically speaking the leak of the letter at such a vulnerable time has weakened General Singh's position in his fight against the government.
It has united the political class overnight. On Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha, Defence Minister A K Antony got complete support from the Opposition leaders starting from Arun Jaitley to Sitaram Yechury.
Vyalar Ravi, senior Congress leader, and leaders of the Samjawadi Party and Janata Dal-United demanded that General Singh to resign. Many political leaders privately told rediff.com in Parliament that if he doesn't resign he should be sacked.
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General Singh had sent the letter to the Prime Minister's Office on March 12. In a report published by a Mumbai daily the details of the letter were leaked.
In the letter, General Singh has asked Dr Singh to 'pass suitable directions to enhance the preparedness of the army'.
The report, also, mentions the major issues raised by army chief in the letter.
That army's entire tank fleet is 'devoid of critical ammunition to defeat enemy tanks.'
That the Indian Army's air defence is '97 percent obsolete and it doesn't give the deemed confidence to protect...from the air.'
That the Indian Army's infantry is crippled with 'deficiencies of weapons' and lacks 'night fighting' capabilities.
It also, alleges Elite Special Forces are 'woefully short' of 'essential weapons'.
The report also quotes the army chief as saying there are 'large-scale voids' in critical surveillance; night fighting capabilities.
With such devastating details coming out into the public domain the government is in a tizzy. It is now seeking the support of all political parties. This issue is much serious than the reprimand to Anna Hazare and his team on Tuesday.
Most leaders think that General Singh is a wounded tiger after he got no support from the government on issue of his birth of date. He seems to be determined to behave 'recklessly' before his term ends. After he spoke in the Rajya Sabha, Ravi told rediff.com, "We just can't allow this to go on."
Many Members of Parliament from non-Congress parties feel, "General Singh is like a bull in a China shop. He is harming the government where it hurts. The issue of birth of date was personal but the issue of corruption or lack of army's preparedness is national. Before he proceeds further the government will have to take some action."
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The problem with the entire saga is that General V K Singh enjoys a reputation of being honest. If he is sacked without strong enough reason, it can rebound on the government whose reputation on the issue of corruption is weak and getting weaker.
The government's dilemma is should it make a hero out of General Singh?
But in the Rajya Sabha, an MP from a southern state said, "This government has lost credibility to govern but the Indian Army doesn't belong to the United Progressive Alliance government. Singh is a self-righteous man but he is now angry. While trying to expose corruption in defence purchases, which everyone is aware of, he is hitting hard at the government. He is overlooking the fact that his behaviour is hurting the image of the army too. This collateral damage is more serious."
Another MP, in the know of the working of armed forces, told rediff.com in Parliament today, "The bottom-line is that Indian Army is getting out of control under the UPA government. This has to stop. We are not an army-ruled country. The civilian set up should show where the buck stops in a robust Indian democracy. Even honest armymen can't cross the limits. The government has no option but to sack the distinguished officer for making undemocratic use of the media."
Even as the controversy regarding India's pathetic security preparedness as exposed by India's army chief is unfolding, India is hosting the fourth BRICS summit for which heads of Brazil, Russia, South Africa and President Hu Jintao of China are arriving in New Delhi.