March 30, 2020
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Words, Words...

Words, Words...
I believe George Fernandes committed a grave tactical error by holding a press conference last week, an error he compounded in a Karan Thapar interview. George is a formidable polemicist, but on the Bhagwat affair he is tying himself up in knots. The ground beneath his feet seems to be constantly shifting, giving the impression of panic. The accused (Bhagwat) now seems to be the victim and media sympathy is almost totally with the sacked chief.

The truth is that each time George takes on Bhagwat he plays into the latter's hands, since the media immediately confronts Bhagwat with George's fresh charges. The aggrieved ex-chief then takes the high moral ground and taunts the defence minister challenging him to substantiate.

Moreover, George keeps changing the officially stated reasons for the dismissal. On more than one occasion, on television and in the press, George described Bhagwat as a security risk. However, at the press conference the defence minister denied ever having used such a phrase. Now, George says he is considering court-martialling Bhagwat, contradicting his earlier position that a court-martial was unnecessary.

On the question of gun-running at least George has been consistent. I don't want to take sides in this sordid tangle, but when Outlook carried a cover story on this issue detailing the precise manner in which arms procured by the LTTE were being passed on to insurgent groups in the Northeast, George and the defence ministry assumed that Bhagwat was Outlook's solitary source. In fact, our sources were top army officers in the Northeast who were incensed that such illegal activity was continuing in full knowledge of the defence ministry. While the officers we spoke to refused to be identified, they spoke freely urging us to expose the gun-running which was helping to kill Indian soldiers. Something strange is going on.

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