Assam chief minister Tarun Gogoi has alleged that then Eastern Army Command chief General VK Singh, now a Union minister, advised him to “buy” insurgent groups of the state to bring them back to the mainstream.
Singh, who went on to become army chief in 2010 before joining politics after retirement, denied the charge.
In an interview to HT on Friday, the chief minister said that Singh’s advice was about financial payments to insurgents.
“What advice is the question...some financial payments. How could I give it? His advice was not to deal firmly (with insurgents). His advice was different,” Gogoi said.
The CM said he had refused to accept the advice. “Wild suggestions but I didn’t want it. Frankly, he suggested that they can be bought back…Nobody can be bought. What’s the use of giving it (money to insurgents)? Now he will deny…that’s why I am not talking about the financial part …”
Asked whether he took it up with the government at the Centre, Gogoi said, “Since I refused, why should I take it up?”
The allegation by Gogoi, a three-time Congress chief minister, comes ahead of assembly polls slated for April-May in the northeastern state. In September 2013, Gogoi had hinted ay “advice” from Singh — who has courted controversy several times in the recent past — but refused to reveal what he said would be a “big embarrassment” for the former army chief.
The army is part of the Unified Command which plans and executes counter-insurgency operations in Assam where several outfits are active, including the United Liberation Front of Asom-Independence (Ulfa-I) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland, Sangbijit faction.
Rejecting the CM’s allegations, VK Singh told HT, “I don’t know what he is imagining. I may have met him a number of times but I don’t recall any such thing.”
Asked about the Centre’s ongoing negotiations with the pro-talks Ulfa faction, Gogoi expressed doubt about the government’s tactics.
“It’s our effort. Who brought them (Ulfa) to the negotiating table? Not they (NDA government). I brought them (Ulfa) there. Frankly speaking, I have a little doubt about them, their dealing tactics.
“Today, they haven’t taken us into full confidence as earlier governments did. Earlier, central government officials discussed with me. Till today, neither the Prime Minister nor the home minister or even a secretary-level official has briefed me,” he added.
The Assam CM also alleged that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was trying to create communal tension ahead of elections and said its cadre were behind incidents of beef-throwing in different parts of the state.
“I immediately called the police (after a beef-throwing incident). I told them it’s the job of the RSS. In spite of their best efforts to create communal tension, they have not been able to create any law and order problems. Sometimes, they use (throw) beef in front of temples… then all sorts of propaganda. The governor says India is only for Hindus. What do such statements mean?”
Asked about the failure to cobble up a Bihar-type grand alliance in Assam, Gogoi said he was for a “maha understanding” with secular parties.
“The moment you go for an alliance with anybody, you have to forego certain seats. It’s not possible. Our base will be eroded if we don’t put up our candidates. We may be a gainer in the short term, but we will be a loser in the long run. Minor adjustments here and there are a different thing. I am not ruling out minor adjustments,” Gogoi said.