While the Congress on Wednesday rubbished a newspaper report about troop movements towards the capital in January, the Bharatiya Janata Party said it was “reassured” by statements from the army and government. The saffron party, however, observed that the relationship between the army and the political leadership had touched a new low.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday evening, triggering speculation that the issue was discussed. Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee also met the PM.
Speaking on the allegation, Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi said, “The army is a hallowed institutional pillar of Indian democracy – it is our pride and our neighbour’s envy. It is many of our neighbours’ envy, and those who speculate by innuendo in sensitive matters must realise that they are causing serious damage to the national fabric.”
Wondering whether every movement of the troops must lead to “these kinds of conclusions”, he said that the subjective conclusions – drawn on the basis of speculation – do “irreversible damage” to the fundamental foundations of a vibrant democracy.
BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, “Both the government and the army have categorically denied it (the report). We are reassured, now that we have learnt about the denials.”
Stating that the armed forces were an important institution that secures the country and provides security, he said that one should “trust and respect” their professionalism. “We must ensure – and that is indeed very important – that there is no room or apprehension for any sponsored story,” Prasad added.
However, Prasad pointed out that the relationship between the army and political leadership was at an “all-time low. “The UPA has messed a lot of things due to lack of leadership and governance deficit. Even the army has become a victim of this,” he alleged, calling for better “equilibrium” between the government and the army, and a more pro-active PM.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, however, asked the Prime Minister to “clear the air” and ensure that the people’s confidence in the army remained unshaken. Terming the newspaper report as “very serious”, CPI general secretary S Sudhakar Reddy asked defence minister AK Antony to clarify the issue.