Huge row erupts over allegations against unit set up by V.K. Singh

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New Delhi, September 20:  A controversy broke out on Friday over a report in the Indian Express alleging that an intelligence unit set up by former Army Chief General V. K. Singh misused secret funds to try and topple the Omar Abdullah government in Jammu and Kashmir, to try and change the line of succession in the Army’s top brass.

The report sent the political temperatures soaring and a political slugfest erupting between the Congress and the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). While the BJP questioned the timing of the report and cautioned the UPA government against undermining institutions like the defence forces, the Congress strongly refuted the charge that the report on the former Army chief was part of a vendetta.

The BJP claimed that General (Retd) V. K. Singh was being “hounded’’ for sharing the platform with the party’s prime ministerial candidate in 2014 general polls Narendra Modi at a recent rally of ex-servicemen in Haryana’s Rewari town, on the outskirts of the national Capital.

Countering the opposition’s allegations, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said: “Nothing can be more baseless and laughable than this allegation.’’

“The UPA government never engages in politics on the sensitive issue of security…In such sensitive matters, the government has a responsibility to discharge its duty, which it will do with full responsibility,” Mr. Tewari said.

He acknowledged that the report was “under active consideration of the government’’ and that appropriate action would be initiated against the guilty.

Mr. Tewari said that he found it surprising that “whenever there is an allegation regarding the alleged subversion of an institution.., the BJP is found jumping to the defence of such individuals.” He hoped that “behind all these incidents, there is not the alleged invisible hand of the BJP and, of course, the spectre and shadow of RSS always looming in the background.”

The Government admitted having received a report from the Army headquarters on certain issues relating to one of its outfits, as reported in a section of the media.

“The report impinges on matters of national security and, as such, the government will take a decision and further action after a careful examination of the report,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement here.

It said the government has in place measures to prevent any such “undesirable activities.” The Ministry of Defence clarified that it has not taken any decision for a CBI inquiry into the issues raised in the Army’s report.

According to the secret Army report, as carried by the Indian Express, the controversial Technical Services Division (TSD) was involved in unauthorised operations and financial wrongdoings.

The report was prepared by Director General (Military Operations) Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia as part of a Board of Officers inquiry formed by Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh to review the functioning of the top secret unit set up during the tenure of his predecessor. The report was submitted to Defence Ministry in March and is learnt to have recommended a probe by an external agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Addressing a press conference BJP’s national spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the allegations, levelled in the report, were of “very serious nature.” She questioned the government as to who stopped it from taking appropriate action when the report had been submitted to it in March.

“To see a BJP conspiracy in every one of this government’s failure highlights how this government is fast losing the trust of the people. The BJP cautions the government that they stop playing with the morale of the defence forces by hitting them purely because they have difficulties handling a retired or a serving chief of the armed force,” Ms. Sitharaman said.

She said that Indian Army, unlike some armies in the neighbourhood, has kept best of traditions and proudly served under elected civilian governments. She also hit out at the UPA government for undermining institutions like the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) and the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

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