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Jaitley blow to VK

New Delhi, June 11: Defence minister Arun Jaitley today separated the government from his ministerial colleague, the former army chief V.K. Singh, who had publicly objected to the appointment of Lt Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as the army chief-designate.

In delinking the government from V.K. Singh’s views, Jaitley has practically endorsed a defence ministry affidavit that described as “illegal”, “extraneous” and “premeditated” V.K. Singh’s ban on Lt Gen. Suhag’s appointment as eastern army commander.

It also said the disciplinary proceedings against Lt Gen. Suhag between April and May 2012 by V.K. Singh were “without any basis or material on record”.

Irrespective of the consequence of the row on the system of senior appointments in the armed forces, Jaitley and V.K. Singh are clearly on opposite sides.

For the new Modi government, the council of ministers appears to be divided.

Lt Gen. Suhag is slated to take over as the army chief from the incumbent, Gen. Bikram Singh, who retires at the end of July. V.K. Singh is now minister of state with independent charge of the Northeast and also minister of state in the external affairs ministry.

Jaitley told the Rajya Sabha: “As far as government is concerned, appointment (of Suhag as army chief) is final and government stands by it.”

His statement came after Congress leader Anand Sharma referred to tweets by V.K. Singh on Lt Gen. Suhag.

V.K. Singh had tweeted last night: “If unit kills innocents, does dacoity and then head of organisation tries to protect them, should he not be blamed? Criminals should go free!!”

V.K. Singh had justified the ban on Lt Gen. Suhag by citing proceedings against him and a unit under him that was alleged to have engineered extra-judicial killings in the Northeast.

Jaitley said the previous UPA government had made the appointment a few weeks ago and it was a practice that “we keep some issues outside the “realm of inter-party politics”.

After the defence ministry filed its affidavit in the Supreme Court on Monday, V.K. Singh alleged that the “defence ministry affidavit is the same as the one it gave to the armed forces tribunal under a protective and conniving UPA”.

The ministry was required to file the affidavit in a case filed by Lt Gen. Ravi Dastane. Lt Gen. Dastane has alleged that he was bypassed for promotion even though there was a discipline and vigilance ban on Lt Gen. Suhag in 2010 when he was the 3 Corps commander.

The case is listed for hearing in September after Lt Gen. Suhag assumes office as army chief.