Crank’s News: Govt plans extension for Army Chief in a bid to sack him

V K Singh deplores quality of tracer bullets in Shastri’s commentary 

New Delhi: The UPA government is mulling a plan to provide one-year extension to the Army Chief V K Singh to formally carry out the task of sacking him.

There has been a huge clamour among the Parliamentarians to send out the Army Chief for his controversial interviews, and contentious letters that have found their way to the media. (The letters and the interviews are also seen by the UPA allies as a breach of their privilege to threaten the government).

But, as it happens, VK Singh is set for retirement in two months time (31 May, 2012), by which time the government is not clear whether it can go through all the formalities connected with sacking of the Army Chief.

‘Two months is too short a period for getting anything done with this government. Take the case of Dinesh Trivedi, the former Railway Minister. It took the UPA coalition a full week to formally sack the Minister in a situation when he himself had technically offered to resign,’ said a top source in the government.

The source added: ‘In the case of V K Singh, two months is probably the period they will require to comply with the basic Constitutional requirement of figuring out what Mamata Bannerjee and Karunanidhi think on this matter. You have to add two more months to mollify the duo, by which time some in the government may be even forced to feel: Why sack VK Singh, when the most sensible option would seem to sack both Mamata and Karuanidhi’s men in the Ministerial team?’

The problem for the government, however, is the fact that if V K Singh is indeed given one-year extension he may actually stop being cussed and nasty. For, the fiasco with his date of birth and the resultant confirmation of retirement on 31 May, 2012, is what seems to have forced him to be daggers drawn at this government.

‘We are in a quandary now. If he is not given an extension, we may not be able to sack him for his dirty tricks. But if we extend his services, he may stop playing spoilsport. So the challenge before the government is, obviously, to keep him at his mischievous worst. Of course, the easiest way to keep him sour and sullen is to make him part of the ruling dispensation, as our experience tells us that when someone becomes our ally, he or she turns practically unmanageable,’ a Congress source within the government wryly said.

Meanwhile, a section of the media has started speculating whether the Congress party has roped in cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar to salvage its floundering image. Media circles have been in a tizzy ever since Tendulkar came up with the comment ‘to retire when at the top is to be selfish’. This, many learned media pundits have pointed out, is an implicit attack on V K Singh, who is the one set for retirement (when on top as the Army chief).

According to a popular news channel, Congress may have chosen Tendulkar to bat for it on the Army Chief issue based on the fact that he (Tendulkar) is the best qualified to talk on the matter as he has the best defence in the business.

Elsewhere, the embattled V K Singh seems to have stirred up another controversy. In an interview to a Mumbai newspaper, the Army Chief said he was recently offered a bribe of several crores of rupees to stop claiming that he was offered a bribe Rs.14 crore to approve the truck deal.  ‘My expose seems to have hurt the middlemen and the defence companies, who have to now dispel the misgivings of many who are not ready to do business with them as they are offering just Rs.14 crore as bribes,’ the Army Chief has been quoted as saying in the interview.

Also, V K Singh said that the quality of arms and ammunition has come down drastically can be gauged by the fact that even Ravi Shastri seems to have stopped using tracer bullets in his sentences anymore.

Reacting to the last allegation, Defence Minister A K Anthony has asked Ravi Shastri to give it in writing the tracer bullets that he uses in his commentary.

Shastri, for his part, said: ‘I am not competent to talk about Army matters. But Air Force yes.’ For, as everyone knows, he prefers to take the aerial route.

(Disclaimer: For a large section of the public, defence preparedness will become a serious issue only when the liquor section in the Army canteen runs dry)