When the 2G Scam hit the headlines some months prior to the Supreme Court ruling cancellation of 122 telecom licenses, the country witnessed minister Kapil Sibal laughing away on national TV, declaring there had been No Loss, and that all calculations were only notional, even as another minister —Mr A. Raja— entered Tihar Jail. Now the Supreme Court orders to commence prosecution within four months are being linked with Lokpal Bill. Why can prosecution not be done under existing laws? Conversely, if the existing laws are inadequate then also the government is responsible, in addition, for dragging its feet on the Lokpal Bill and wanting organizations like CBI outside its purview to undertake government bidding to consolidate political power.
The jubilation over dismissal of Dr Swami’s petition of making Mr P. Chidambaram, home minister (then finance minister) a co-accused in the 2G Scam has striking similarity to government jubilation when the Delhi High Court dismissed Dr Swamy’s petition for removal of minister A Raja.
However, the issue went to Supreme Court and the result was not only imprisonment of Raja but explosion of India’s 2G Scam at both at national and international stage. Is the current jubilation over Dr Swamy’s petition of making the HM a co-accused going to end up similarly? The bottom line is that we are an empire of ambiguity, deceit and denial that will only ‘be forced into owning up under duress of law’. Even then, the game is to lie low and enjoy the fruits of having been ‘faithful’ – amusing to see an ex minister on national TV on 6th Feb removed months earlier in the Oil Scam and who has been enjoying full ministerial hospitality all along.
Now if Raja is the scapegoat of the 2G Scam, who is going to be the scapegoat in Age Row conspiracy of General V.K. Singh? Conspiracy it surely is and that too an intricate one. In fact, uncovering the conspiracy has become far more important than overturning ‘alteration of date of birth of General V.K. Singh by the ministry of defence’. If two Army Chief’s (J.J. Singh and Deepak Kapoor) did not take the advice of their respective Adjutant Generals (authority within army for date of birth), what were the pressures to act so illegally?
When General V.K. Singh’s statutory complaint was rejected by the government, the very next day you had the law minister declaring him an “outstanding officer”. Immediately thereafter, we had a leading national magazine's cover showcasing the photograph of General V.K. Singh captioned as “Self Before Service” and a slanderous article within. I had questioned in these columns then as to which country in the world would do such thing to its own serving Army Chief especially when the official line described him ‘outstanding’. The magazine then came up with another article titled “Lies of the General” insulting General V.K. Singh. Then came a series of similar derogatory articles against the Army Chief in a regional newspaper published from Chandigarh. One could only speculate as to who could be behind all this and wonder if the advisors realize that the cat will be out of the bag sooner or later. This is the information age and information gets passed on no matter how much you try to curb its passage. The CCP in China is getting the taste already as despite massive curbs, details and pictures of government suppression in Tibet (predominantly Sichuan Province), Xinjiang and Wukan of increasing protests by the population, self immolations by Tibetan monks, and killings on account of firing by Chinese security forces are filtering through to the outside world. Software solutions already exist using which ‘blocked’ websites can easily be accessed.
In India, while a politician may say anything like “zero loss" in 2G scam and it can be glossed over, a diplomat or a bureaucrat’s word is given far more credence. Hence, it was extremely difficult to believe one’s ears listening to the debate on the age row issue between 8.30 pm and 9.00 pm on 3rd February 2012 on CNN-IBN when an ex diplomat revealed that the series of trashy articles in the Chandigarh paper had been authorized by the PM. If this was a slip of tongue then it was one hell of a slip, but the moot point is that when this was referred to in the same debate by another speaker, the ex diplomat made no move to change his statement. If it is true, then this would surely go down as another landmark in the history of ‘Incredible India’— PMO covertly authorizing a diatribe against the country’s own Army Chief concurrent to the law minister lauding him as ‘outstanding’, as the official government line. Do we see the transition completed from a ‘vibrant democracy’ to a ‘stinking democracy’?
Another celebrated lady columnist writing for a leading national daily can hardly be faulted for questioning the ability of General V.K. Singh in leading the Army in war for she would hardly know the difference between a gun and a mortar, what military leadership implies, the environment of the combat zone and what military strategy is all about especially since 65 years down from Independence, we still do not have defined a national security strategy and national security objectives. Unless she was ‘authorised’ (as perhaps the national magazine was) to write the article, this girlie (since she refers to Gen V.K. Singh as ‘the guy’) could do well in devoting her abilities on other more important issues mentioned above, no matter the urge to somehow ‘keep in line’ with a government action gone horribly wrong, instead of writing against an upright soldier who has been trying to clean up the system within the Army and the government has no option but to officially admit he is ‘outstanding’.
Ostensibly, towing the government line by some service veterans in the age row of the army chief will continue but cannot be misconstrued as ‘division’ between veteran ranks. Not only are their numbers too miniscule, some have no option (especially if ‘authorised’) because of skeletons in their cupboards, others with friendships with conspirators / co-conspirators if not linked / coaxed by mafias. One of them had himself gone to court and was fighting pettily for the Presidentship of Delhi Gymkhana Club— both while still in service, another as already brought out had his own bank account sealed last year under the Citi Bank fraud. Their compulsions obviously override the possibility of being ostracized from the veteran fraternity for doing down the military and a service chief.
So who will be the Raja of the ministry of defence— the scapegoat? No matter the façade of bravado being put up, surely the selection has already been made as contingency in case of loss? Would it be the Joint Secretary (G) or someone lower / higher? Axiomatically, the aftermath is guessable— perhaps a simple warning to the scapegoat or a posting out from the ministry of defence to more cushy job as incredible India marches on.
Lt Gen Prakash C. Katoch, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SC is a Special Forces veteran of the Indian army