Casus Belli Aching

Just when commentators were concluding that Gen VK Singh will be remembered for posterity as the Chief who went to court for getting ten more months in office, the General has yet again managed to spring a surprise. Going public with allegations that he was offered Rs 14 Crore as bribe for accepting sub-standard vehicles for the army, he is back in headlines. While he did not go as far as naming the perpetuators of the tantalizing offer, a recent official press release by the Army claimed that the offer was made by a retired Lt Gen on behalf of a PSU and a foreign firm. The release also claimed that the recent stories about communication interception equipment being used without authorization by the Army in the capital have been fabricated by the very same people who offered him the bribe. So now he also has the chance of being remembered as the Chief who was offered a bribe (and turned it down).

As a close observer and occasional commentator on the recent shenanigans by the leader of one of the largest armed forces in the world, one is led to wonder what kind of a creature is Gen VK Singh’s conscience. Or his sense of honour for that matter. Both these animals seem to lie dormant for long periods of time after being aggravated, only to rise suddenly and start baring their fangs in full media glare. One wonders what is it that dictates the timing for their sudden awakenings. Or what is it that motivates them, for that matter.

As mentioned in one of my earlier posts, the much professed sense of honour was claimed to have been aggrieved by the authorities insisting on following the laid down rules, taking into cognizance an unfavourable date of birth amongst the two different ones held on record. However, the affront did not manifest itself when the stakes were high and the appointment of Chief of Army Staff was hanging in balance. It did so, in fact, a few years later when there was very little to lose. Except, of course, the dignity and sanctity of the high office occupied by him. Unfortunately for him, the Supreme Court cut through the hype and jargon weaved around the facts by his spin doctors, and did not get taken in by the facetious arguments citing, amongst other things, honour and morale of the armed forces to seek a favourable decision. It stuck to the facts of the case and the result was there for all to see.

The awakening of the conscience, likewise, waited for an unfavourable decision in the age row. And if that wasn’t enough, the revelation of unauthorized snooping in the capital by military intelligence using top secret espionage equipment meant for use on the borders probably roused it. As did ongoing investigations into reports that at the height of the courtroom drama, there was an unexplained movement of a mechanized battalion and paratroopers from Hissar and Agra respectively towards the capital.  The General obviously knows that attack is the best form of defence. Or a better strategy still, confuse, cofound and then play the ultimate victim.

The present revelations have raised many questions, most of which are already being asked by the media and political parties on both sides of the political divide. Chief (no pun intended) amongst them is why no immediate action was taken by the General after such serious provocation. Well, he did walk up to the Defence Minister and ‘inform’ him. But this was not followed up by a written report. Nor was any complaint or FIR lodged. Even if the ‘offer’ was made in a manner that it could not be proved, the obvious thing to do for someone who has repeatedly vowed to wage a war against corruption in high places would be to set up a trap by pretending to go along with the offer, after taking the Defence Minister into confidence. In fact, as per latest reports an audio recording of the alleged conversation has been handed over to the CBI – one wonders that if such a recording did exist, why was did he wait for 18 months to hand it over to the investigative agencies. Instead, the General spent his time and energies in fighting the system on his date of birth issue, which obviously was more important to him than the alleged attempts of bribery at the highest level. The sudden expose now, after suffering a public loss of face (and continuing to cling to office thereafter), seems to be more of belly aching than a crusade against corruption.

One further wonders what has been the motive behind the General’s controversial moves in the past year or so. In the age row, anyone who had an understanding of the facts of the case and belief in the wisdom of the Supreme Court knew that he had no chance of a favourable verdict. Yet the General  went ahead and fought a very public and acrimonious battle, unperturbed by its effect on the image of the high office he was holding. And now this – media revelations obviously aimed at embarrassing the government rather than any attempts at belated whistle blowing. Questions have been raised about who his advisors are, and about the quality of advice he has been receiving that has prompted these actions. But one finds it difficult that a person in his position would take such steps merely on faulty advice. Since the arguments of honour and crusade against corruption do not hold much ground given the circumstances and backdrops of the actions, there is one other possible explanation.

It is possible that the General harbors political ambitions, and has used his time in office to set the stage for launching his second career. Viewed against this possibility, his actions suddenly begin to make a lot of sense. Not only has he received more media attention than all the chiefs before him put together, he has also supposedly projected himself as an honourable, fearless and honest crusader against injustice and corruption. Having thus carried out his personal brand building (at the cost of brand Army), it could be a simple matter to step out of uniform and into politics. All will probably be revealed in Act three. Meanwhile, the only saving grace is that the there isn’t too much time left for this drama to play out.

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12 thoughts on “Casus Belli Aching

  1. “Money makes the Mare go wether it has legs or no” ……. what makes this one Go !!!
    Wait till the act 3; Should we?
    Just hope that the political masters don’t make a Baba Ramdev out of him.
    It is indeed sad that the utimate loser is the ARMED FORCES. Villians in movies are already being called Colonel et all ( Agent Vinod).

  2. @Jai – Baba Ramdev had mass following. As for Gen VK, I think people are already avoiding him now that the new Chief has been announced. He just might find himself friendless, at least amongst the serving lot, in the new dispensation. Everyone saluting the rising sun you see.

  3. A Black Analysis

    What if?
    The General was indeed setting a trap for the rotten Tomatoes in and out of service and having informed the Def Min, he expected St Antony to join forces to root out corruption.

    But over the intervening period he realised that Saint was just a front for the counter party.

    Should he have taken the issue of bribe offer to his grave, just because his age issue was ruled against him?

    The Chief has requested CBI to meet him on Friday. I wish the Gen compiles and hands over a bulky dossier of all the cases in the Army. Let the CBI or anybody drag these pests away from their Flag Staff Houses. Like the ex Generals from Adarsh on TV the other day!!

    As regarding ‘Brand Army’, the dead body in the closet is rotting for so long, that the stink is now unbearable- Let, please, somebody from outside, clean it up.

    And pray, why is ‘Political Ambition’ of Gen VKS (Retd)unbearable?
    Laloo-istic thinking. it seems.

  4. @IndianACE – What if he was too busy fighting his date of birth issue to remember that this had also transpired and needs to be followed up? And woke up at the fag end of his career, after he found some time for such issues? Or does a person with his experience and sagacity believe that there are no intermediary steps between making a verbal report to his boss and going to town through the media?
    And political ambition of Gen VKS in NOT unbearable. It would be great if he can follow eminent examples like Ike. What is abhorrent (and not unbearable – now one has learnt to bear a lot) is the thought that he may be misusing his office and the regard that goes with it to further that political ambition.

  5. Pretty poor analysis that totally discounts the intelligence of a Service Chief. Grant him at least the little slack for he has beaten many to rise to where he is today.

    Take a guess as to how many months would it take an Army Chief in India to raise a voice against genuine Corruption while serving under a government such as ours? One had better be totally honest himself and even more have all the proof which all the vultures in the MoD will look under a microsope and refute.

    The very fact that the Chief had to go to SC for the age row indicates that he is not hand in glove with MoD and RM. Had he been things would have been different. In fact he is being shunted out well before his time because he has become a pain in the ass for those who are making money.

    And I must add, I could be wrong in all my assumptions but I would bet on the Chief’s integrity rather than the RM’s or the MoD.

  6. @Subhhash – does raising a voice against corruption comprise of making vague statements in media interviews? Why doesn’t he just file an FIR? Or approach the court, like he did to try and get an extension?

  7. I Fully agree with Subhash… thank God we have someone with guts …there were too many of us who get swayed by the media leaks planted by the vicious Babu-Vendor combine …there is not a single Babu mentioned in the entire episode ..and they are the one’s who fire their Guns from the sincere but hopelessly ill informed and ineffective RM… and come on … we don’t expect the Chief to file an FIR at Chanakyapuri PS… that would have been ridiculous and the media would have sponsored a totally different take and we all would have joined the chorus …Courtesy the Chief at least the people in the country are at least discussing Defence issues and corruption in the forces … which are largely Procurement and Babu – Politician driven !!!

  8. @Parrypaul – you are right as far as the babus – netas getting away is concerned. Tehalka was prime example. In fact, even in this case the alleged perpetrator is an ex fauji! And he is not even an employee of the vendors, so they are likely to turn around and deny that he was working on their behalf, even if the bribe offer is proved.

    However, I disagree with you about this being a courageous step by VKS. While obviously filing an FIR at Chanakyapuri police station is an exaggeration, he could have definitely taken affirmative action at that time itself. He should have filed a written report at least. He could also have done what he has now done for a letter against another General written by an MP to the Prime Minister one year back – referred the matter to CBI unilaterally.
    Unfortunately, irrespective of his intentions, his actions and their sequence / timing appear to be a knee jerk reaction of losing the date of birth case.

    And as for people discussing defence issues / corruption in forces as a result of this – to my mind these issues have been ‘discussed’ threadbare since Bofors and through Tehelka. Not that these discussions have had any effect in lowering the levels of corruption, or for enabling the armed forces to get any equipment for that matter.

  9. Agro, I feel you are also falling prey to the situation created by media and strategically planted leaks by people / parties having stakes in murky defence deals, all of which portray the Chief in bad light. Since the media leaks are selective and meant for sensalisation, how are you so sure that the Chief did not take any action against the perpetrators when the things came to his notice. Maybe he filed a complaint with MoD, and as with most such issues where MoD may also have culpability, the latter dragged their feet over it. As for referring matters to CBI unilaterally, having worked in HQs, I know that that may not be possible since all such things have to go through MoD which is the higher formation. Anyway, my point is that we should not get swayed by just media reports, because in our country, it is highly ill-informed and poorly researched, and its business is only to look for breaking news that does not last more than a couple of days.

    I feel the major contribution of the present Army Chief is bringing out two prominent issues of corruption in defence deals and poor defence preparedness of the forces owing to lethargic and archaic procurement policies to the collective attention of the entire nation. Both these have led to a situation whereby our forces today are plagued by outdated equipment. The Chief has contributed to calling national attention to these issues just as Anna Hazare did with corruption and Lokpal, and to that extent, I feel he has done his bit and hope some good comes out of this.

  10. The timing of the Chief’s disclosures is debatable. But in my opinion, it is better late than never. Knowing our system so well, bringing up the issue earlier would have resulted in a flurry of directionless activity leading to nowhere.On the contrary, such disclosure earlier would have seen the political class and bureaucrats would have closed ranks to target the Chief, thus derailing a host of other issues.In any case, setting the cat among the pigeons is unlikely to make any difference as has been seen in the past. In any case, why only blame the politicians an bureaucrats when the rot also exists within ourselves.The Govt will drag their feet,sweep the whole issue under the carpet and get behind the Army with a vengeance. We need Generals who seriously mean business when they talk about cleansing the rot within and can take a stand on the vital issues.The Govt’s audacity is a result of the fact that if one General takes a stand, he can be removed and there will ten others waiting to bend backwards and jump into the seat.

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