The unprecedented situation arising out of general VK Singh writing directly to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and its subsequent leak to the media, has further strained the relations between the government and the Army chief.
It all started with Singh’s confrontation with the government over his age. While the Army chief took the extraordinary step of dragging the government to the Supreme Court and making it an issue of his honour and integrity, UPA managers assured him of a face-saving exit.
Though an angry UPA trouble-shooter Pranab Mukherjee asked Singh to resign and put a lid on the raging controversy, defence minister AK Antony tried to keep him in good humour. He persuaded him to give up his claim, maintaining that the circumstances were not in his favour.Even as Singh remained defiant, the row was finally settled when the Supreme Court asked him to withdraw his petition. His date of retirement — May 31, 2012 — was upheld.
The confrontation between the government and the Army chief escalated this week, after Singh referred to an attempted bribe, alleging that he was offered Rs14 crore by a retired army officer in 2011 to clear a deal for substandard trucks, and that he had reported the matter to defence minister AK Antony.
The acrimony peaked with Singh bypassing Antony and writing a confidential letter directly to the PM on March 12, 2012, detailing deficiencies in the military. The leak has now turned the political class against the Army chief.
Commenting on the development, former Army chief General VP Malik said friction had always existed between the military and the defence ministry, but it has now hit the ceiling. Defence analyst major general GD Bakshi (retd) said both sides needed to retreat and recover lost ground.