Union minister and former Army chief General VK Singh on Sunday dismissed senior Congress leader Manish Tewari's claim that the Indian Express story on non-notified movement of troops towards Delhi from neighbouring Haryana in 2012 was true.
Tewari, a former minister, on Saturday appeared to ratify the news report, saying that reports of Army moving two units towards Delhi without informing the government was “unfortunate but true”.
During the book launch event in Delhi, Tewari, the then minister of state for information and broadcasting in the UPA government, brushed aside allegations that a news item concerning troops' movement published was 'fake'.
"At that time, I used to serve in the Standing Committee of Defence. And it's unfortunate, but the story was true. The story was correct. I am not getting into an argument. All I am saying is that to the best of my knowledge that story was correct," he said.
Later, speaking to The Indian Express, Tewari said: “I was a part of the Standing Committee on Defence and I recall that in April of 2012, after the story appeared in The Indian Express, there was a briefing of the committee done with respect to the story. During the briefing, the Defence ministry maintained the stand that the government had officially taken. Privately, the officials involved in the briefing confirmed to me that the story ‘may just be true’.”
Tewari declined to elaborate citing breach of parliamentary privilege.
The report which emerged on 4 April, 2012, informed that late on the night of 16 January, 2012 (the day then Army Chief General VK Singh approached the Supreme Court on his date of birth issue), central intelligence agencies reported an unexpected (and non-notified) movement by a key military unit from the mechanised infantry based in Hisar (Haryana) as a part of the 33rd Armoured Division (which is a part of 1 Corps, a strike formation based in Mathura and commanded by Lt Gen AK Singh) in the direction of the capital, 150 km away.
General Singh had then rubbished the report as "absolutely stupid" and on Sunday, he sought to again deny the allegations.
“Manish Tewari doesn't have any work. There is this book of mine, ask him to read it and everything will be clear to him," Singh, now a minister of state for external affairs, told reporters on Sunday.
Singh was referring to his autobiographical book ‘Courage and Conviction’ where he has criticised various situations in which he was involved, including alleged corruption in the Indian government and the role of Indira Gandhi in Operation Bluestar.
Why didn’t Tewari say this before, asks BJP
Meanwhile, raising questions on the timing of the admission made by Tewari, the BJP on Sunday said his comments are “suspect” and have actually served to put the UPA regime under the scanner.
”Manish Tewari’s comments raise the question about the timing of the statement. His comments are suspicious. I would only ask why was he quiet when his government had denied it? Congress had then told us that nothing like this had happened when they were in power,” BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said on Sunday.
Speaking to NDTV, former chief editor of Indian Express, Shekhar Gupta, said the story "did not need vindication. Everybody knew what the truth was." He said he would not want to comment on the war of words between the ministers, but added that he was "glad that somebody in the political side has spoken about it."
The Congress, meanwhile, is reportedly unhappy with Tewari’s comments.