Friday, September 20, 2013

General VK Singh a rogue? The BJP looks worse….

The Indian Express story was a shocker. As much of a shocker as the TOI story first on Nitin Gadkari’s business empire. There were furious denials from the parties named then, even accusations of impropriety and bias against TOI. Later, as the truth emerged, the publication’s stand was justified. Indian Express too has stood by its report, and said that it has more to reveal. If it were to do that, or if a court were to look at the full report, the bluster around VK Singh would come unstuck.

Several things shocked me yesterday in the NDTV debate on the subject. First, the lawyer representing the General surely has to be the most rude and uncouth person ever to have made it to TV. He was foul and threatening; and wasn’t allowing anyone else to speak. Second, the BJP seemed to be in too much anxiety to defend the General. Why? Is he their party member? Is that why he shared the stage with Modi? And third, neither the General’s lawyer nor the BJP were actually denying the charges per se. The General’s lawyer merely kept asking the newpaper’s opinion’s editor if she had seen the report herself. How does that matter? Assume she hasn’t seen it. Does that make the news report wrong? If the charges are wrong, then the lawyer should have told us why they were wrong. But he didn’t. The BJP kept questioning the timing. Now assume that the timing was indeed a play of politics by the Congress. So what? Its political season isn’t it? But does that make the General defendable? And the argument that had the General wanted to topple a government, he would have tried to do the central government, not a state, is shameful to say the least. Besides, there were sordid stories of the Army conducting secret surveillance in Delhi a few years back weren’t there? At that time, the opposition had accused the government of trying to keep a watch on them. Well, we now know who was responsible. And then the explanation that covert operations are a must for a country like us? That’s silly. For covert operations are kept covert from the world, not from the government! As a responsible party, should the BJP not have focused on the seriousness of the issue and said that it needed to be investigated? Somehow Prakash Javdekar made the BJP looked guilty.

There are a few elements in the charges which somehow ring true. Or at least sound plausible. For example, the age controversy towards the end of the General’s career. It lacked even the basic decency expected of an Army officer. It was a representation of the selfish “I, me, myself” culture that probably has brought the General close to Narendra Modi. That aside, the General’s ambition, at that point, looked like extending his own career by a year. Now with this latest charge, it looks like maybe there was more to it than personal ambition. It was an effort to scuttle the present General’s chances of becoming the top dog. That’s why the TSD, part of the Military Intelligence unit that VK Singh headed, funded an NGO to file a PIL – alleging a fake encounter – against General Bikram Singh. Fortunately, that PIL was thrown out by the Supreme Court.

Then the fact that the report was actually submitted in March this year, and not revealed by the government, actually shows that the government is acting without malice. If it had wanted to embarrass the General, and thwart his chances of entering politics, it could have released the report long back. And if it wanted to embarrass the BJP, it could have revealed the report just before the Modi rally. In reality, there couldn’t be a worse timing for the leak of this report. The BJP’s charge of timing is an obvious one. Surely the Congress knew of this possibility. Why would it release the report now? Maybe its this worry about being called vindictive that made the government go slow on the report for so many months? Maybe that’s why the government is still wary of ordering a CBI enquiry?

Then again, the BJP couldn’t answer the Congress’s point that when leaks happened of the CAG’s 2G report, the BJP didn’t take such a high moral ground against leaks. Is the BJP’s politics just politics of convenience? And when the Indian Express editor said that the same journalist who broke this story had embarrassed the Congress in the past with some other breaks, thus justifying any absence of political bias, no one had an answer. If anyone was politicizing the leak, it was clearly the BJP.

The Indian Express story has given great details in its report, just like the TOI report had about Gadkari’s empire. Likewise, when the Indian Express had broken the story of how Kiran Bedi, who pretended to be holier than thou in the days of the Anna movement, and still does now, was pocketing large sums of money (maybe for her NGO) from air travel – claiming more and paying much lesser. The details were so many that they could never be denied. In this latest case as well, the specificity of charges gives the report credibility.

Talking of conspiracies, one that is equally possible is that the General knew he had been exposed, and hence created an anti-government charade so as to weaken the government’s ability to prosecute him. The General has shown to be a very savvy mind, and this is surely not beyond him. His accusations against retired Lt. General Tejinder Singh could not be proved even after the CBI examined 50 people. Clearly there is a pattern here? What is equally possible as a conspiracy, is that the BJP has its supporters in the establishment (Army, CAG, Judiciary, Activists), just like all parties have, and it has decided to induct them into its politics (unlike other parties). There has always been suspicion of the ex-CAG, Vinod Rai. We’ll wait and see if he does join the BJP. There has also been suspicion about General Singh. His overt support for Anna was a way to announce his opposition to the government, not any concern for corruption. After Anna split with Kejriwal, maybe the General decided to take his anti-Congress politics to the BJP instead. For the BJP, anyone who embarrasses the government is good news.

The real truth is that the General Singh leaks are a poor reflection of the man who was the Chief. But even more of a poor reflection is the stance of the BJP. Even in this matter of national security, the BJP prefers to play politics. Maybe its understandable – after all, its PM nominee has been caught with his pants down!

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