Generally speaking

Military Politics

 A propensity for shooting off his mouth and the inability to look beyond his nose has landed up Gen VK Singh in yet another embarrassing situation – of having either to make an unpleasant meal of his own utterings, or to go back on them on one pretext or the other. Other notable occasions have been when he went back on his written undertaking accepting a false date of birth, when he withdrew his case from the Supreme Court after friendly advice from an empathetic bench, and when he had to render humble apologies to the same court and the J&K assembly for his statements in their contempt.

The latest incident relates to the former general’s impulsive tweets castigating the army chief designate. Since opinion is sharply divided about the personalities in question, it would be a good idea to go into the series of events leading up to the present situation without making any value judgments about the people involved.

Due to an anomaly in the official records regarding his date of birth, Gen VK Singh was asked to give a written undertaking on three different occasions as he rose up the ladder to the high office, accepting a particular date as the valid one – which he did. Whether the act of asking him to do so was malafide, or an attempt to prevent precisely the type of controversy that arose later, is one of the value judgments we are avoiding for now. But one of the outcomes of this was to set up a particular line of succession to the office of the army chief.

On assuming the office of the chief, Gen VK Singh rescinded from his written agreement and invoked the grievance redressal mechanism right up to the highest court in the land, to have his date of birth changed. He asserted that the fight was about restoring his honour, which had been tarnished by the government in not accepting his stated date of birth. The government’s stance was that it was not disputing the general’s assertion about the date, but the fact that the change had not been made within the timeframe stipulated by the rules, i.e. within two years. No valid proof, such as a Part II order of the change in date of birth made within this timeframe, could be produced by the general. As a result, the Supreme Court, which was cognizant of the need to pass a judgment as per the rule position, advised him to withdraw his case lest they be forced to pass an adverse judgment, thereby affronting the dignity of the office of the army chief and the person occupying it.

The general acted on the court’s advice and withdrew his application. A large section of the observers expected him to resign at that point of time, especially since he merely had another three months left in office. This would have had several advantages from his stated point of view. It would alter the line of succession that he had been alleging was orchestrated by his predecessors, and it would also underscore his assertion that his fight was about honour and not about additional time in office. It would kill two birds with one stone, meeting all his stated aims. However, he chose not to do so, and preferred to serve another three months, perpetuating the succession he was obviously against.

During his last few days in office, he ordered an enquiry against a serving Corps Commander and placed him under a Discipline and Vigilance ban. The person in question was slated to be an Army Commander, and also to the chief immediately after the next incumbent. It is interesting to note that despite having resorted to such an action, which would obviously alter the line of succession, at the fag end of his tenure, he was vociferous in criticizing the previous government when it took the decision to announce the appointment (incidentally, of the same person) as the chief towards the end of its own tenure.

And now, when the new government of which the general himself is a senior member, decided to uphold the previous government’s decision, he chose to publicly condemn the prospective incumbent, using some very strong vocabulary. Thereby giving rise to a situation where a minister in the government is openly against the appointment of the government’s appointee to the post of the chief of army staff.

So we now have the piquant situation, where, having publicly taken a stand against his own government’s decision – a decision that has been categorically reiterated by the defence minister in the parliament after the general’s outburst –   the general possibly has the following options:-

–          To bring his government around to his own point of view and change the decision about the appointment of the next COAS.

–          To take a principled stand and resign in protest against the government appointing someone with the shortcomings he attributed in his tweets as the army chief.

–          Retract and reconcile.

–          Pretend that nothing out of the ordinary happened, and continue with business as usual.

It would be interesting to see which of these options the general will choose, or whether he would be able to come up with a fifth option. However, one hopes that in the times to come, the general rises above his personal prejudices and battles to use the opportunity of high office for greater organizational good.

4 thoughts on “Generally speaking

  1. Yes he should either convince his govt or keep his mouth shut do not drag the higher ech offrs into fighting each other . As such they r such a divided lot only thinking of out doing each other and the org suffering

  2. A honest and a hard working Gen who has been trapped while signing the wrong DoB for consideration of his promotion on the promise of correction at a later date and not doing it in the documents at all stages is to be analysed and pinpointed.But who has prompted him to do it is a big question.
    The Gen need not be and should not be blamed as its the MoD who filed the same affidavit which was filed by UPA 2 despite the fact that the new govt has approved the appointment of Gen Suhag as COAS.
    The bureaucrats in MoD should be taken to task for this mess up and Gen V K has no role to play.As far as his tweet is concerned its his pers View and should not be dragged into controversy unnecessarily.In fact there should be a complete ban and media should not discuss about any defense related issues in public domain unless its welfare matter of defence otherwise it will adversily effect the morale of troops. Thanks

  3. The bureaucrats in MOD are squarely to be blamed. Instead of exposing their misdeeds, the offrs in the Armed Forces love to criticise their own, especially someone who takes a stand against the bureaucracy. Because of such unjust criticism perhaps, a highly outstanding offr (see his track record in the Army) who could have sorted out the MOD has not been able to do so. See how the IFS offrs vigorously defended Devyani Khobragade, but the Armed Forces offrs love to criticise their own. If the Armed Forces offrs unite, no MOD can dare be unjust.

  4. The actions of the ex chief have been embarrassing for the 1.3 million strong army. It is tough to follow a leader who is publicly seen to be following selfish agendas – using position and power for furtherance of selfish political aims( reference is to Gaurav Senani rallies held in his intended constituency as army chief; doing everything to stick to and increase his tenure. Spending official time and machinery in fighting court cases to correct his date of birth.
    The purported wrong DOB was filled in by him as a young NDA aspirant and signed by him in the UPSC NDA Application. If the DOB there was wrong he may also be found guilty of providing false information at the time of enrollment.
    May God or Modi bestow some wisdom even at this late stage to concentrate contribute positively to the ministry that he heads now. He has a chance to go down history as the man who successfully integrated the estranged populace in the region with the rest of India.

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