New Delhi: The government faces the ignominy of a minister - former army chief General VK Singh - tweeting against the Army Chief-designate, linking him of supporting "dacoity" by an army unit that once worked under him. (Controversy over New Army Chief: 10 Developments)
General Singh's tweets were raised in Parliament today by other parties with the Congress demanding his removal. "The appointment is final," stressed Defence Minister Arun Jaitley, adding that the post of the army chief "must be kept out of controversy."
Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag is scheduled to take over as the Indian army's top man at the end of August. While he was army chief, General VK Singh had tried to block his promotion, and he has recently defended his actions.
The appointment of the next army chief was one of the last major decisions cleared by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government before it was trounced in the election by the BJP.
Defence Minister Jaitley says the appointment was rushed by a lameduck government but has since supported the move to make Lieutenant General Suhag the next army chief.
But the issue is now riddled with controversy. In addition to General VK Singh's public criticism, senior officer Lieutenant General Ravi Dastane's case against Lieutenant General Dalbir Suhag (first filed in 2012) has reached the Supreme Court. In the petition, General Dastane has said that Lieutenant General Suhag's selection as the new army chief smacks of "favouritism."
Refuting that stand, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has told the court that the action taken against Lieutenant General Suhag by General VK Singh was "illegal" and incorrect - an opinion based on the conclusion reached by an extensive internal army inquiry. The Congress says that the government's comments, expressed in writing, amount to a "vote of no confidence" in General Singh who must now resign as minister.
But sources in the government say that the tenor and slant of its affidavit in the Supreme Court has to follow the line taken by the earlier UPA government in the armed forces tribunal where Lieutenant General Dastane had first filed his case since the litigation is a personal matter of the individual officer
Yesterday, General VK Singh, who is now a minister of state in government, tweeted in reference to the man whose promotion he is opposing - "If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organization tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!"
In May 2012, just before he retired as army chief, General Singh took disciplinary action against Lieutenant General Suhag for a botched intelligence operation under his command in the north-east. General Singh tried unsuccessfully to block the promotion of Lieutenant General Suhag as Eastern Army Commander, a move that placed the latter in line for the post of army chief.