Former army chief VK Singh’s claim that the army paid J&K ministers ‘to do certain jobs’ has triggered a political storm with demands that his allegations be probed.
Home minister Sushilkumar Shinde launched the first counter-attack and egged Singh to go public with the names. “VK Singh should name the politicians. If details are given, we can investigate,” Shinde said in Delhi.
Worried about the impact of the charges on its credibility, the National Conference, which leads the coalition government in J&K, has threatened legal action unless the former chief names the ministers who he alleged were on the army’s payroll.
Moderate Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq jumped at the revelations that had “undermined the legitimacy of successive representative governments in the state since 1947”.
In the midst of attacks on Singh, BJP leader Arun Jaitely advised the former army chief and the Centre to back out and put an end to disclosures that could severely hurt India’s security interests.
In an article, the leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha wondered if the army chief should have admitted to the payments even if pushed to a corner. And then hit out at the UPA for abandoning state-craft and hurting national interest as long as it could score points.
The former army chief had told TV channels yesterday that the army pays money to all ministers in J&K to perform “particular jobs” for maintaining peace in the state, a practice that he insisted was followed since Independence.
Facing fire over his remarks, VK Singh today sought to do damage control by saying it was not a bribe and that the ministers spent the money for designated purposes.
But in Kashmir, that is bad enough.
Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi waded into the controversy, saying if he discloses Singh’s advice to him years ago on counter-insurgency operations as the then chief of Eastern Army Command, it would be a “big embarrassment” to everyone.
In Delhi, Congress spokesperson PC Chacko said Gen Singh was getting into “more and more trouble” as he is “again and again creating controversy”.
“His statements are unbecoming of a person of his stature... Let him name the people. Reputation of Indian Army is being denigrated by irresponsible statements,” he said.
Jaitley, however, was unsparing on the two sides for the turn of events.
“Prime Ministers, Home Ministers, Defence Ministers, Chief of the Army staff, heads of IB and R&AW and several others in the government are privy to information which must necessarily die with them. It even cannot become a part of their memoirs.”