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   Army Chief VK Singh's leaked letter to Prime Minister
 CBI ProbeDalbir Singh Suhag, Gen.V.K. Singh bribe chargeManmohan Singh, Antony

After alleging that he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a deal and exposing the gaps in the country’s military preparedness, Army Chief General VK Singh now want a probe against a serving Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag.

General V.K. Singh to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the lack of defence preparedness appeared in a national daily on Wednesday, adding a new dimension to the ongoing controversy sparked by an explosive interview the Army Chief gave this newspaper, Defence Minister A.K. Antony assured Parliament that the government was committed to ensuring the safety and security of the nation.  

who returned late Tuesday night from South Korea — went into a huddle with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Mr. Antony to discuss the government's limited options.

The government can grin and bear it until the General demits office at May-end. Or it can ask him to go on forced leave and risk damaging the office of Army Chief.

The letter may have painted a grim picture but, sources say, it is the practice for service chiefs to write to the Prime Minister, shortly before they retire, on the state of the fighting arm they head. This letter is also similar to the one Gen. Singh wrote to Mr. Antony last month. That too appeared in a newspaper and contains much of what the Army had shared with the Defence Ministry and the National Security Council last year.

Those close to the General who was in Kashmir on Wednesday deny that the letter was leaked from his office, stressing he had nothing to gain by its contents being made public. The March 12 letter says India's security may be at risk as tanks are running out of ammunition; air defence is becoming obsolete; and the infantry lacks critical weapons. A Congress functionary even told The Hindu that it was virtually impossible that the Army Chief would have leaked a confidential letter, as it was an offence that would attract court martial.

In his letter, Banerjee had named several Army officers, including a former Army Chief, who allegedly received huge kickbacks for defence procurements and amassed “huge” disproportionate assets.

Banerjee also named the middlemen, who allegedly dealt with these procurements. According to the Trinamool MP, the alleged pay-offs were made for the purchase of night-vision devices, communication systems, weapons as well as parachutes.

The Army Chief’s ‘letter bomb’ reached the CBI headquarters barely a day after a team from the agency visited his office to begin a “comprehensive” probe into the bribery charges made by him against Lt Gen Tejinder Singh.

In his letter to the central probe agency, Gen VK Singh had asked the CBI to take Banerjee’s allegations seriously. Another interesting aspect of this new development is the timing of Gen VK Singh’s letter to the CBI as a Delhi Court is likely to hear today a defamation case filed by Lieutenant General (Retired) Tejinder Singh's in which he has accused Army Chief General VK Singh, and four senior Army officers of criminal conspiracy to defame him.

General Singh had in past opposed the appointment of Lt Gen Dalbir Singh as one of the Army Commanders while the Ministry of Defence backed it.

When quizzed by reporters, the Trinamool MP confirmed that he had actually written a letter in this regard to the Defence Ministry in 2011.

However, he was quoted as saying that though he got a response from the Ministry of Defence that the allegations would be probed, he never actually heared of any inquiry in this regard.

The shocking development comes at a time when the CBI is already probing bribery allegations by General VK Singh claiming that he was offered a bribe for clearing sub-standard vehicles for the Army. It also holds significance in light of a leaked report written by the Army Chief to the Prime Minister's Office claiming shortcomings in defence preparedness.

The bribery allegations by Gen VK Singh and his leakage of his letter written to the PMO about the country’s defence preparedness has evoked sharp reactions from the government as well as former Army officers.

In light of these intriguing developments, pressure is now building on the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to intervene in the matter.

Sources also claim that the government will wait till March 30 giving Defence Minister AK Antony time to collect evidence related to the matter. The other view is that the government may also ask the General to go on leave rather than sacking him.

Singh's public statements, the BJP is not ready to seek any action against him. However, it has given notice for suspension of question hour in the Lok Sabha to discuss the subject; that did not happen on Wednesday as the House was plunged into turmoil on the Telangana issue.
Wed 28 Mar, 2012,10:32:36 PM
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