The sensational report in the Indian Express on Wednesday, which insinuated that the civilian government was perturbed by unreported Army troop movements on the night of January 16 in and around New Delhi, may have been ‘masterminded’ by a senior minister in the UPA government, according to media accounts.
The Indian Express report, which suggested (without saying so explicitly) that the government was fearful of a ‘coup’ by the Army chief, Gen VK Singh (who was then locked in an unprecedent conflict over his date of birth), was intended to “drain away support for Gen Singh” from within the political establishment, according to The Sunday Guardian.
Citing unidentified sources, the Sunday Guardian claims that the senior minister “tricked the (Indian Express) into running a baseless report”; it alleges, sensationally, that the senior minister’s relative is connected to arms procurement lobbies that have been “gunning for” Gen VK Singh for his having taken on corruption in defence purchases.
“A close relative of the minister in question has been regularly meeting with arms merchants and their lobbyists, including on his many visits abroad,” the newspaper said, citing its sources.
It speculated, citing other military sources, that the insinuation about a coup attempt was intended not merely to discredit the Army chief but to paralyse the Army in its training functions. “Already, procurements have slowed to dangerous levels… Should the military’s freedom to undertake routine training exercise of the sort described… get curtailed (because of imagined fears of a coup), the military would very son lose its fighting edge,” it added.
But Indian Express editor-in-chief Shekhar Gupta, the man at the centre of a Twitter storm following the publication of the article, dismissed the allegations that the government had fed him the sensational story.
The suggestion that “someone in government would give me the story to publish… runs into many contradictions,” Gupta told CNN-IBN late on Wednesday.
“If the story was given to us by the government to put a General in his place, why would the government deny it?” Gupta wondered. “We are not such clowns that we would put ourselves up to these denials.”
The report that the Indian Express published was based entirely on facts, Gupta told NDTV. “We look at facts, we check them, we assess them and then we put them out in public domain…”
Acknowledging that people either say that it was a government plant or that “we are traitors”, Gupta noted that Indian Express had staked its credibility on the report. “We put our necks on the line. This is not a blog under a funny name like kaala kutta or safed billi… this is a genuine newspaper story… A lot of work has gone into it. We are quite happy to put facts like this in the public domain. Let them be scrutinised.”
As Firstpost has noted before, the entire controversy surrounding the tensions between the Army establishment and the civilian government - which are at the heart of the Indian Express article - are linked to the shadowy world of arms procurement deals.
That intricate web involves, by some accounts, some Indian politicians, even if there is as yet no confirmation of the role they played.
An earlier column in The Sunday Guardian (here) had explicitly named the Minister who, it alleged, is at the centre of the controversy. Subramanian Swamy too has alleged that the high-profile Union Minister's son was linked to arms agents.
The plot is thickening. Now that the can of worms has been opened, much more muck is sure to come tumbling out.