East still hasn’t met West and the sun continues to stand its ground instead of circling the earth but Congress leader Manish Tewari has managed to pull off the impossible. He now has his party and the BJP mucking about on the same page.
By claiming that the August 2012 report in Indian Express of un-notified troop movement from Agra and Hisar towards Delhi is correct, Tewari has also plastered pie on his own party rather than hurl it at his intended target, minister of state for external affairs, General VK Singh.
Speaking on the sidelines of a book launch event in the national capital on Saturday, the former minister upheld the veracity of the report, which appeared on 4 April 2012.
The article spoke of “unexpected” and “non-notified” late-night movement of two army units on 16 January 2012 in the direction of Delhi, and exploded in the media the same day that the General Singh, then chief of army staff, had moved the Supreme Court against the UPA government over a bitter confrontation about his date of birth. It raised clear implications of a coup.
It had immediately drawn sharp response from all concerned with General Singh terming it as “absolute rubbish” and the UPA going out of its way to issue a firm denial.
“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,” Tewari said in reply to a question.
One doesn’t know if he found Delhi’s cold too bitter to handle and tried to raise the temperature by several notches but the former minister of state for information and broadcasting couldn’t have not known the implications of his claim.
It straightaway raises several uncomfortable questions.
One, why did Tewari wait for three long years before revealing the information?
Two, if Raisina Hill worthies were indeed spooked, as the Congress leader has claimed, why did AK Antony, the then defence minister, tell Parliament that the movement of troops in January 2012 was part of a “routine exercise” to check operational preparedness? Why did Antony dismiss the media report as being based on “wrong inferences, surmises and conjectures?
One doesn’t quite know if Tewari, who was the acting chairman of Congress’s media cell till he was removed in 2014, was still smarting from his party’s gag order on “unofficial spokespersons”. If the former minister wanted to ruffle some party feathers, he did a spectacular job of it.
The Grand Old Party came out all guns blazing and lined up serried ranks of “official spokespersons” to distance itself from Tewari’s comments.
First, PC Chacko said it was an “unnecessary controversy”.
Abhishek Manu Singhvi was more scathing.
“Mr Tewari is “neither the authorised spokesperson nor was he a part of the Cabinet Committee on Security,” Singhvi said on Sunday. “It was not right for him to comment on such issues,” he added.
“It was inappropriate, unnecessary and completely wrong to suggest that there was truth in those allegations when made.”
For his part, the good general must be guffawing at the way the entire controversy has shaped up.
He quipped: “Tewariji has nothing to do these days” and advised the Congress leader to read his book Courage and Conviction, which will apparently make everything clear.
Whatever be the truth, the timing of the Congress leader’s statement reeks of an attempt to score cheap political points and speaks volumes about the party’s cavalier attitude and desperation to remain relevant.