BJP and Congress today sparred over a report which alleged that former Army chief Gen VK Singh misused funds to set up an intelligence unit, with the saffron party charging that Singh was being "hounded" for sharing dais with Narendra Modi.
While Government asserted that appropriate action will be taken against "retired or serving" officer, whoever is involved, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said the allegations against Gen Singh sound absolutely curious and odd not just because of the timing but also because of the contents of the report.
"It is obvious that the hounding of the retired army chief is being done because he was seen seated beside Narendra Modi at the Rewari rally," she said.
Congress leader and Union Minister Manish Tewari reacted sharply, saying it is surprising that "whenever there is an allegation regarding the alleged subversion of an institution.., BJP is found quite jumping to the defence of individuals."
Noting that he was quite struck by this fact, Tewari hoped that "behind all these incidents, there is not the alleged invisible hand of the BJP and of course the spectre and shadow of RSS always looming in the background." Sitharaman also raised the larger issue of misuse of institutions by Congress-led UPA government, saying "the Congress-led government has earlier used the CBI to break down the IB and tried to unravel it in the Ishrat Jahan encounter case. Now it is using the same methods for Military Intelligence. This is a dangerous sign," she said.
She accused the government of setting "wrong precedents", saying this does not augur well for the country's forces.
"The government and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should ponder over this. There is already a trust deficit. Government should stop using hounding tactics," she said.
The report of a Board of Inquiry into the functioning of Technical Services Division (TSD) has alleged misuse of position by Singh and unauthorised operations and financial wrongdoing by the intelligence unit.
Sitharaman also sought know why the report has come out now when it was prepared in March and justified Singh's presence at the dais with Modi a few days back, saying, "V K Singh's presence in Rewari rally was natural as it was a rally of ex-servicemen".
Gen Singh had dismissed the reports as "simple vendetta", saying some people are not comfortable with him sharing the dais with Modi to espouse the cause of ex-servicemen in the country.
Tewari, however, rejected the contention that the report is politically motivated. "Nothing can be more baseless and laughable than this allegation. UPA government never engages in politics on the sensitive issue of security...It never examines the sensitive issues related to national security in the light of politics.
"In such sensitive matters the government has a responsibility to discharge its duty, which it will do with full responsibility," Tewari said.
He also sought to clarify that this is not a question of being individual-specific but it is more of a systemic and structural issue "wherein there are alleged actions which impinge upon the larger ambit of national security.
Government does take such matters extremely seriously as it is its duty to do so and asserted that action would follow "after a problem," Tewari said.
"The facts mentioned in the report are in the cognisance of the government. If it is found after the probe that facts are true, then action will be taken against those who are allegedly involved in it, whether they are in service or have retired," he said.
Singh today said that his legal team was examining the matter to take serious legal action. "I will speak at an appropriate time," he said.
Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir Minister Ghulam Hassan Mir refuted the allegations that he received money from the former Army chief.
"The allegations levelled against me are baseless. I have not received any funds and there is no attempt to destablise the Jammu and Kashmir government," he said.