By Jay Bhattacharjee on September 21, 2013
Veteran observers of the capital’s corridors of power were expecting a major response from the UPA command centre after the spectacular success of Narendra Modi’s first major public appearance at the rally in Haryana a few days ago. Certainly, the presence of the former Chief of Army Staff, General VK Singh, along with a host of former flag officers (Lieutenant Generals, Major Generals and Brigadiers) would have rattled the Gandhi topiwallahs. However, what must have really shaken them was the response of the crowd that comprised a large percentage of ex-servicemen and their families. Even the motley strategists in 24 Akbar Road and 10 Janpath are aware that this part of the country (Rajasthan, Haryana and western UP) provides a sizable percentage of the enlisted men in the Army.
Two of the Army’s prominent infantry regiments (the Rajputana Rifles and the Jat Regiment) do their recruitment exclusively in this area. The combination of VKS and NaMo on the dais and the rapturous welcome they received from the crowd is something that the UPA think tank knows is their nightmare come to life. It does not require more than the minimum intelligence to visualise the impact this alliance could have in the 2014 polls. However, when the news filtered through this morning about the ruling regime’s riposte, most dispassionate observers started wondering about the levels to which our present rulers can stoop.
Using the same underhand methods that they had used in April 2012 against the General (who was then the Army chief), the UPA agent provocateurs planted a story in the Indian Express (which published it on Friday) that the good General, when he was chief, had used Army funds to try and topple, if you please, the J&K Government of Omar Abdullah. Supposedly, the new Chief, Bikram Singh (who had taken over from VKS) and his team have been looking at this episode and a ‘report’ has allegedly been submitted to the Defence Ministry. Now, why would the Army chief try to topple Omar baba’s piggy bank, and that too with an operating budget of a little more than Rs 1 crore? Clearly, the Keystone cops in Akbar Road and Janpath have an extremely poor opinion of the IQ level of the Indian public.
Let us go back a bit. In April 2012, Shekhar Gupta’s newspaper had published a front-page lead story which sensationally claimed that a large contingent of troops had moved to Delhi on January 16 -17 under the cover of planning for the Republic Day ceremonies, and this was an unauthorised deployment done under the direct or indirect prodding of General VK Singh. Gupta and his henchmen tried to portray it as an ‘attempted coup’. Clearly, an overdose of Frederic Forsyth and John le Carré here. When faced with the prospect of a major legal case by the General and the Army, these hacks beat a hasty retreat.
In any case, a good friend of mine, a former gunner of distinction, told me that it does not take 2500 soldiers to stage a coup in Delhi. Even 50 of our well-trained faujis, led by a Captain or two, are good enough to take over Raisina Hill and its assorted power points. The babus and the netas will run so fast that Usain Bolt would be surprised, according to my old friend.
But how can human nature not assert itself ? Gupta and his cohorts are now back at their old game. Of disinformation, character-assassination, venality and treason. Poor Ramnath Goenka must be dying a thousand deaths to know that his dream journal is now nothing but a shabby instrument in the hands of the dynasty that he loathed so heartily. It does not require an Einstein or a Hercule Poirot to realise that reports of the Army trying to topple the elected Government of a sensitive border state like J&K are nothing but manna from heaven in the hands of the terrorists and separatists on both sides of the LoC, as well as the official wings of the Pakistan Government. This will be ready ammunition for Pakistan to use in every conceivable international forum, not to mention among the hordes of Indian denizens sympathetic to the Pakistani cause.
The UPA war room and its agents in the world of the media and in Delhi’s salon circles are playing a hideous and obscene game to destroy the credibility of the one institution in this country that has survived the onslaught of treachery, graft and fraud, to a very large extent. Yes, there are fault lines in the armed forces – our soldiers come from the same cultural and civilisational background as the rest of the population and have the same DNA. There have been compliant generals like PN Thapar and BM Kaul who were buffoons and cowards, if not worse. There were fawning chiefs like Idris Latif, JJ Singh et al who got rewarded with plum gubernatorial or ambassadorial posts after retirement. There were even some like SM Nanda who went into the arms trade. And then there are people like the Major-General who was thrown out of service on serious charges, who was pontificating about the ‘sins’ of General VK Singh on TV on Friday evening.
The man is the younger brother of a press pundit and has no compunction in interacting with people shamelessly, even when the latter are aware of his peccadilloes. However, the overwhelming majority of the other ranks and the officers in our armed forces have been shining examples of courage, dedication, commitment and integrity. This is one institution that the motherland can unhesitatingly rely upon, during any crisis or catastrophe. The women and men in uniform will come to the nation’s succor, with no questions asked and no expectations of any reward. This is what is most galling to our babus and netas. That we have such a glorious role model at hand, when they themselves have their hands in the till and their feet in the slime.
Therefore, the babus and the netas entered into a despicable and unholy alliance since the General Thimmayya episode in 1959 to systematically downgrade and demoralise the armed forces, deny them their legitimate benefits and humiliate them in every possible manner. The babu-neta alliance is now seeing the ex-services population rallying around a Modi-Singh combine and this has sent them scurrying for cover. Naturally, this is the time for the dirty-tricks department to swing into action.
Historically, competing military powers have always tried to destabilise the armed forces of their rivals. Germany did that successfully to France with the Dreyfus affair that crippled the morale of the French Army for nearly two decades and split the French officer corps into two bitter rival camps. In the 1930s, the Germans again sowed dissension in the French armed forces, using class and political fault lines. The old French military families were generally Catholic and right-wing, not very fond of the Republic, while the younger officers often belonged to staunchly anti-clerical groups, committed totally to the republican cause. Canaris and his Abwehr in Berlin used their resources liberally in order to divide the French Army along these lines.
However, the classic success story of decimating an entire rival Army, without firing a shot, pertains to the clash between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This virtually impossible feat was achieved by the German secret service. They almost destroyed the Soviet officer corps in the late 1930s by using a forged letter that purported to prove that the legendary Marshal Tukhachevski was actually a German spy. Heydrich was the author of this master-stroke; it involved using the innocent Dr Benes, the President of Czechoslovakia, a Soviet ally, into delivering the forged letter to Stalin.
The Georgian megalomaniac, always looking over his shoulder to see if there were any rivals, took this opportunity to launch a brutal purge of the Soviet armed forces. Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky was found guilty after a kangaroo trial and executed on June 11, 1937. Eight other Generals were also executed. However, Stalin’s blood-lust did not abate. The purges in the Soviet Armed forces continued till 1940 ; when they finally ended, the country had lost almost 40 per cent of its officer corps. This is the parallel that Indian citizens must keep in their minds ; our enemies within and outside are trying to do something similar to our armed forces. If this game plan with General VK Singh succeeds, it will split the Army into rival camps, polarise opinions and loyalties, and effectively leave the nation defenceless. Let us not be complacent about the inherent capabilities of the ISI and its personnel. They also read the same history books as we do.
All of us must stand up and ask the authors of this outrageous conspiracy to prove every word of their fantasies. Otherwise, we must put the whole thing down to panic stations in Janpath and Akbar Road, comparable to what happened in the Führerbunker in Berlin in early May 1945, as the victorious Red Army was fighting its way into Berlin. As the great Hugh Trevor-Roper wrote in his epic The Last Days of Hitler, his inner group was “as incalculable in its capacity for intrigue as any oriental sultanate”. Are Mrs Gandhi and her accomplices in the same league already?