Will the government act against Army chief VK Singh once Parliament's budget session gets over, or will it deal with the issue after confirming the source that leaked his letter? This question was hotly debated in political circles after Parliament witnessed outrage over the issue on Wednesday.
Much to its relief, the government received the support of the political class. In fact, the mood inside Parliament seemed distinctly against General Singh.
Some parties, including the Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Lok Dal and the Janata Dal(U), minced no words while seeking his sacking — although he is set to retire in May. “If the Army chief is responsible for it... he should be sacked immediately. If this kind of indiscipline grows in the Army, it will become a dangerous trend for the country,” Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said.
However, while sources said that showing the general the door was not on the government's mind, they did not rule out the option of asking him to go on “forced leave”.
If the government was very angry with General Singh, it chose not to show it. Even as defence minister AK Antony received the full support of Opposition leaders, including Arun Jaitley and Sitaram Yechury, he stated that “the issues were under the consideration of the defence ministry. By the very nature of these issues, they cannot become a matter of debate.” The Congress was also mild in its response.
Jaitley told Antony “matters which are supposed to be confidential are being leaked to media”, and “if this kind of leakages are permitted, there is no point in saying that you do not want such matters to be part of any acrimonious debate".
Sushma Swaraj, his counterpart in the Lok Sabha, said, "The decision to write a letter is always fraught with the possibility, even if 1%, that it may be leaked at some point in time." Though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh did have a word with senior ministers, including P Chidambaram and Antony, there were indications that he would not want the issue to get any undue publicity at a time when the BRICS summit was in session.
“Dismissal (of Singh) will set a wrong precedent. What impression will the other countries get if our Army chief is dismissed?" a minister asked.