Chandigarh: Former Punjab chief minister and state Congress president Amarinder Singh Tuesday said that the letter he wrote to Defense Minister Arackaparambil Kurian Antony on the birth date of Indian Army chief General Vijay Kumar Singh was his personal “opinion” and in his “personal capacity”.
In a clarification issued here after it was reported that Amarinder Singh had favored correcting the birth records of the army chief, Amarinder said he had written the letter about a month ago putting forth his “opinion on the issue” only in his “personal capacity”.
Amarinder Singh, a former Indian Army captain who belongs to the erstwhile Patiala royal family, is leading the Congress in the Jan 30 Punjab assembly election.
Antony has rejected the army chief’s statutory complaint seeking to change his date of birth from May 10, 1950, to May 10, 1951. He first sought the change in 2006 but the defense ministry has steadfastly refused to budge.
Antony told parliament, in reply to questions last September that “the date of birth of General Singh has been maintained as May 10, 1950, at the time of his selection as corps commander in 2006 as well his subsequent promotions as army commander in 2008 and the chief of army staff in 2010”.
The army chief had filed a petition May 25, 2011 before the defense ministry asking it to treat May 10, 1951, as his date of birth. The ministry rejected this July 21, 2011.
General Singh filed the statutory complaint in response to this.
If the ministry had granted Gen. Singh’s request, he would have served for another 10 months and he would have retired in April 2013.
That would have also resulted in Lieutenant General Bikram Singh, who is the present Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander, being denied the chance to become the next chief in May 2012 and his junior Lieutenant General K.T. Parnaik, presently the Udhampur-based Northern Army Commander, would have become the next chief in April 2013.
Meanwhile, General Singh met his principal staff officers, particularly the record keepers in the army headquarters here, according to sources.
Though no official information on what transpired in the meetings held Friday and again Monday, sources said the defense ministry’s communication Friday that the attorney general’s opinion which was against acceding to his request did come up for discussion.
The meeting with his principal staff officers, held twice within a matter of four days, was attended among others by the adjutant general, who is responsible for record keeping and pay and in the army headquarters.
The records with the adjutant general branch, including General Singh’s school leaving certificate, indicated that he was born May 10, 1951. However, records with the military secretary, responsible for postings and promotions, showed it as May 10, 1950.
Another drastic move that the army chief could take was to resign ahead of his tenure coming to an end May 31, 2012, which would put the succession line in the 1.13-million-strong army out of gear, sources said.
On Friday, after General Singh was communicated the government’s decision on his date of birth, he met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who was the defense minister when the controversy broke out.
It seems to be more than a coincidence that Amarinder Singh, a Sikh, is in favour of Gen V K Singh retiring as per his current date, which will ensure that Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, also a Sikh, becomes the next chief. Nepotism in the Indian Army has been on the rise for many years now, but it seems that the caste and religion based nexus is now achieving alarming proportions. And as is common knowledge in most Army circles, the Sikh network is probably the most powerful one. It's also sad to note that all and sundry are being permitted to post their "personal views" on a matter that should be strictly between the Defence Ministry, the Army and the judiciary.