Centre comes under Oppn fire

Age row: Antony incompetent, says BJP

The government on Wednesday faced the ire and criticism of different political parties over its handling of the age controversy of Army chief Gen V K Singh.

Former defence minister and senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh accused Defence Minister A K Antony of handling the sensitive issue in an incompetent manner. “I am amazed at his (Antony's) incompetence and the sheer folly of treating such a sensitive matter in an insensitive manner," Jaswant Singh said here while speaking on the controversy in which government seems to stand isolated.

The veteran BJP leader further asserted that the “controversy continues”. “Could the defence minister or the prime minister not stop or asked the army chief.....walked to his office and sort out this elementary matter of sorting government records,” Singh asked.

Samajwadi Party leader Mohan Singh also blamed the government for its mishandling of the issue. “Government should have taken it as an extraordinary issue and dealt with it with utmost sincerity and sensitivity,” Singh said putting government in the dock over the issue.

Expressing his opinion on the matter, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy suggested that the government should accept a honourable compromise with the Army Chief on the age issue to avoid a major loss of face. “I urge the Prime Minister to cut his government's losses by agreeing to the eminently reasonably compromise formula suggested by Gen V K Singh,” he said.

Swamy further asserted that the only alternative available with the government is “honourable compromise” and said that “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should realise that a major loss of face for the government is on the cards and extraordinary unpopularity amongst the patriotic citizens of the country.”

Differences in Cong

The government is facing criticism not only from other political parties on the issue, there have been differing voices within the Congress as well. Former Punjab chief minister and ex-Army Captain Amarinder Singh had strongly backed the Army chief. However, earlier on Tuesday, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said it would have been better if Gen Singh had not approached the apex court.

Gen Singh moved SC on Monday after the defence ministry rejected his statutory complaint in which the he had requested to change the year of his birth in official records  from 1950 to 1951.

‘Govt has right to decide tenure’

Arguing that his legal battle with the government is for a right to retire with dignity",  Gen V K Singh has said the government "has the right to determine the tenure of his office of the Chief of the Army Staff".

In his 66-page petition that has caused the government severe embarrassment, the army chief said he wished to make it "abundantly clear at this stage" that regardless of the result of the petition or the controversy surrounding his age, it was left to the government to decide on his tenure.

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