Rectify Before Its Too Late : Sanctity Of The Civil Government Must Be Maintained

The President’s address to both Houses of Parliament and the Prime Minister’s reply to the motion of thanks in both the Houses are quite moderate and have not raised any hackles in any section of the population. In fact, the Congress Party is saying that most of the proposals or policies have been copied from the Congress. It is a funny argument because if that is so then the Congress Party cannot oppose these policies. If it is the Congress policies they are adopting, then what objection can the Congress have? But let’s leave that alone. The point is that giving speeches is one thing. But on the ground what we see are two things I notice. One, we have not heard a single proposal that this Government will do something drastically different from the previous Governments. The only thing we have been told is that the junior Ministers and the PMO will function, which is all right. This is the style of functioning. But what are the policies going to be? After all they have got a mandate.
For a change, they have got a clear mandate for the first time. Unfortunately, their emphasis has been on the Ram temple and Article 370 and all that, which does not really matter. Fortunately, the Prime Minister has not spoken of all that, and neither did the President’s address speak of it. On the policies within the country, what is their line? Are they going to continue the Congress policies of poor administration and taxation, collecting money from corporates, which are the only ‘people’ who pay, and spending large amounts of money on social schemes like the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) etc., where the money never reaches the poor and goes into the pockets of the middlemen? One would expect that if there is a change the new Government should have come out with a clear policy that they are going to drastically change all this. Either limit the MGNREGS to a few districts or it abolish all together or find a new type of scheme to help the poor. But they have not said anything of the sort.
The Finance Minister is tight lipped as he should be before the Budget. But he should give some indication of what drastic change he is about to bring about. Of course one must wait to see what is in the Budget, which we will do, but just now there are no signs. On the other hand, there are some disturbing signs, especially in the matter relating to former Army Chief VK Singh and this affidavit filed in the Supreme Court. To anybody who has been anywhere near administration or Government, it is obvious that this affidavit has been filed by bureaucrats without showing it to the new Government, because this affidavit reflects the views of the Manmohan Singh Government. The sad part is that this Government looks scared of the Army. Any Government worth their name would have first reviewed the appointment of the Army Chief. The Army Chief was supposed to be appointed by 31st May, two months before the retirement date of the existing Chief. Instead of that they appointed him before 16th May, before the election results came, pre-empting application of mind by the new Government.
On that ground alone the new Government should have said that “no, we have nothing against a particular person but we will review the matter. If we find him suitable we will approve him, if we do not find him suitable we will announce a new name”. But they are so scared that they have just said “no, no, no, the Army is an institution”, etc. I do not understand all this. You are an elected Government, elected by a clear majority. What institution is the Army? We are not in Pakistan. Here the Army is just a fighting force, that’s it. And indeed it is an institution with its own rules and therefore whatever the then Chief has done in that institution should be upheld. If General VK Singh when he was the Chief has passed strictures against XYZ, he was the Chief of that institution at that time. Instead, first the appointment of Bikram Singh by the Manmohan Singh Government was done in a most shabby way. He did not deserve to be the Chief, the turn was of somebody else; and now in the same sequence they appointed another person.
The previous Government was in a hurry — it was so obvious that they were in a hurry to appoint him so that a person with a different bent of mind does not come in. What is this bent of mind? It is very obvious to anybody who knows even little about defense that it is all a game of arms dealers. General VK Singh was a person known for being upright — even people who were against him will testify — that nobody could corrupt him, no arm dealers could approach him. He was above reproach. And here there is a whole lobby of arms dealers who would like to fix their own people in place. I do not know about Bikram Singh or about the new man sought to be appointed. But definitely the whole Army is in their view. Mr. Arun Jaitley, who has got temporary charge of defense says that “no, no, that is final, that is an institution, the appointment has been made”. I don’t understand. The Army is not above the Government. What kind of institution is this? You are a Government with a clear majority. You are answerable to the electorate. They will hold you responsible for whatever you are promising. I do not think this is a good sign.
Depending on people in uniform like the Army, police, paramilitary forces is alright to a certain extent but you cannot run the country through them, otherwise Pakistan will be flattered that we are copying them. We are a civilian society, a civil Government must have dominance over the Army, police, paramilitary forces. Even in the run up to the elections, Mr. Narendra Modi had said something about the Army and the police which we had criticised in this column. Now that he is in Government, he must understand that the Atal Bihari Government dismissed the then Naval Chief. People criticised but we, I remember Chandrashekharji, VP Singh etc., at that time said that “no, a civilian Government has the full authority to appoint or dismiss any armed forces people. There is no question of comment on it.” The sanctity of the civil Government must be maintained. Why is this Government scared of coming to the right conclusion? Why should some law officers go and file an affidavit and embarrass you? General VK Singh has tweeted something and the whole electronic channel is full of this nonsense. Obviously the arms lobbies are not beyond approaching the electronic channel. This is the first time of malfunctioning and it should be nipped in the bud. I think the PMO and the Prime Minister himself should get seized of the matter and rectify it before it’s too late.


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