Tewari's troop march claim triggers controversy

Tewari's troop march claim triggers controversy

Former Union Minister Manish Tewari has raked up the 2012 troop movement controversy, saying a media report about army units moving towards Delhi without notifying the then UPA government was "unfortunate but true" even as his own party distanced itself from his claims while former Army Chief V K Singh rubbished the remarks.

As Tewari's remarks opened a can of worms, Singh dismissed the claims and called the Congress leader jobless even as the BJP questioned the timing of the remarks and demanded a statement from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the matter.

Replying to a question at a book release function here yesterday, Tewari had said, "At that point of time I used to serve in the Standing Committee on Defence. And it's unfortunate but the story was true. Story was correct."

Tewari, who was Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting in UPA government between October 2012 and May 2014, said, "I am not getting into an argument. All I am saying is that to the best of my knowledge that story was correct".

The Congress leader was asked about media coverage of issues pertaining to defence forces as in the case of the Indian Express report on April 4, 2012, titled "The January night Raisina Hill was spooked: Two key Army units moved towards Delhi without notifying Govt."

Reacting to his remark, former Army chief and Union Minister Singh said, Tewari should be told to read his book which talks about the issue.

"He should be told to read my book, which reveals all (about the issue)," he said.
Singh, who had in 2012 dismissed the report, said, "He (Tewari) has no work these days."

The Congress on its part distanced itself fom Tewari's claims.

"We on behalf of Congress very clearly and categorically want to deny this report," party spokesperson P C Chacko said.

Another party spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said there is no truth in the report. "I am again clarifying there is absolutely no truth in it (claims about troop movement in 2012), he said.

"My colleague was neither a member of the Cabinet Committee on Security, nor any relevant decision making body," Singhvi said, adding some troop movements are necessary, inbuilt and inevitable part of the defence mechanism.

"It was inappropriate, unnecessary and completely wrong to suggest that there was any truth in those allegations when made," he said.

According to The Indian Express report, central intelligence agencies had reported that on the night of January 16, 2012 there was an unexpected - and non-notified - movement by a key military unit from mechanised infantry based in Hisar in the direction of the capital.

On the same night, another unit - identified as a large element of the 50th Para Brigade based at Agra - had also been moved towards Delhi, according to the newspaper report.
The alleged movement took place at a time when Singh was locked in a confrontation with the government in a row over his age.

Questioning the timing of the remarks, the BJP demanded a statement from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Defence Minister A K Antony on the issue.

"Manish Tewari is raking up an issue wherein their own government had denied that there was any coup movement. His now raising this issue throws many questions which must be answered by the Congress," party National General Secretary Siiddhartha Nath Singh said.

The timing is certainly politically "suspect", he said adding, "We have seen in past that Congress has tried to demoralise the armed forces by raising questions on national security."

"Therefore, it is time for Congress to come clean and BJP demands a statement from no one less than former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Defence Minister A K Antony," he said.

Senior JD (U)leader K C Tyagi said Prime Minister Narendra Modi should take cognisance of the issue and demanded that Singh be sacked.

"The issue (of troops' movement) is detrimental for democracy. I will urge Prime Minister Modi to take cognisance of this report and remove Singh from the Cabinet. He should also set up a high powered committee to probe this issue..," he said.

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