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Congress targets Modi silence on VK

New Delhi, June 11: The Congress today mounted pressure for V.K. Singh’s exit over his continued attacks on Lt Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag, asserting it was the Prime Minister’s moral and constitutional responsibility to act against a minister who had humiliated the army chief-designate.

The party argued that under no circumstances could V.K. Singh continue as minister as he had not only caused serious harm to the institution of the army, he had also violated the principle of collective responsibility of the cabinet and brought the credibility of the defence minister under suspicion.

Senior Congress leaders Amarinder Singh and Anand Sharma raised the matter in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha respectively.

Separately, the party questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP and wondered how information and broadcasting minister Prakash Javadekar, the government’s spokesperson, could say “no comments” when asked about such a grave matter.

Defence minister Arun Jaitley has made it clear Suhag’s appointment is final but has not responded to controversial tweets by V.K. Singh, the minister of state for north-eastern affairs.

The quit calls followed a submission by the defence ministry to the Supreme Court saying it disapproved of V.K. Singh’s actions as then army chief against Suhag.

“The alleged lapses observed by the then chief of army staff as reflected in the showcause notice were premeditated and issued in utter disregard to the legal provisions governing the court of inquiry, principles of natural justice… the lapses were vague, based on presumptions and legally and factually not maintainable,” the ministry said in an affidavit.

Today, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala slammed V.K. Singh over his tweets against Suhag.

“The irresponsible comments questioning the role, position and integrity of the next army chief reeks of personal vendetta of disproportionate proportions. Gen. Singh has also questioned the validity, authenticity and correctness of the affidavit filed by the defence ministry, making the defence minister’s position untenable,” Surjewala said.

He then asked the Modi government several questions, saying the army “is a very sensitive issue”. “Is the affidavit filed by the defence ministry correct? If not, is it contempt of court? If yes, does it not mean Gen. Singh’s actions were pre-meditated, prejudiced and false? Whether Gen. Singh disagrees with the stand taken by his own government? If not, what is the reason for the vociferous protests through the media? Does it violate the principle of collective responsibility? If yes, should the Prime Minister not intervene?”

In response to Jaitley’s suggestion to keep the army out of politics, he said: “The defence minister forgot it is his own ministerial colleague who politicised the issue and brought his ministry under a shadow of doubt.”

The Congress is not willing to go easy on the issue, aware that it makes the Modi government’s position vulnerable at the start of its tenure.

Also, Suhag is a Jat from Haryana, which going to the polls in the next few months and where the Congress wants to be seen backing his cause as it tries to retain power.

In Parliament today, the party wondered why Modi had skipped the issue in his reply to the motion of thanks to the President’s address. In the Lok Sabha, the Congress’s Amarinder Singh described V.K. Singh’s tweet as “a disgrace”.

In the Rajya Sabha, his party colleague Anand Sharma said it was highly objectionable that the persona of the army chief-designate was being targeted in this manner. “It does not augur well. It is ominous as to what is going to happen,” Sharma added.