VK Singh’s age controversy scripted by PMO?

With websites including Flipkart, Rediff and E-bay taking pre-orders and announcing November 7 as the launch date, General VK Singh’s autobiography is expected to arrive in the capital during the Diwali week with a bang. Aptly titled ‘Courage & Conviction’, the former Army Chief graces the cover in ceremonial Blue Patrols.

The book is being published by David Davidar’s publishing house, Aleph, which has a distribution and marketing tie up with Kapish Mehra’s Rupa & Co. Though General VK Singh and his co-author, Kunal Verma refused comment on the contents of the book, most industry watchers are unanimous in the opinion that the book will leapfrog to the top of the best seller rankings. Those who are privy to the books contents claim that not only is the matter explosive, the autobiography has been superbly written, giving a clear picture of the General and what he has stood for, in a manner that has been the hallmark of the man.

Ever since VK Singh took charge of the 1.3 million strong Army from General Deepak Kapoor, it is perceived by many that elements within the Army, tainted by the Sukhna and Adarsh scams, launched an all out campaign to destroy the man. Despite clear cut proof (in the form of his school leaving certificate) that he was born in 1951, Deepak Kapoor’s predecessor, General JJ Singh decreed that VK Singh was born in 1950, hence restricting his tenure within the Army and clearing the way for General Bikram Singh as VK Singh’s successor. It is widely believed that elements within the PMO encouraged JJ Singh to set into place an ‘established line of succession’, that also saw the abrupt end to other officers who were ahead of Bikram Singh in the race for the top job. It remains to be seen if VK Singh actually names JJ Singh and the others in the book who allegedly tweaked events to stymie the General, widely seen as a no-nonsense soldier who would fight for what he believed in.

Ever since Independence, civil-military relations have been extremely tenuous with the bureaucracy slowly and steadily playing on the political establishment’s inherent phobia to increase its own hold on the Armed Forces. This combined with the pressures from Defence lobbies have further crippled the Indian defence establishment that faces two hostile countries on its Western and Northern borders. Unlike VK Singh’s predecessors who were quite content to keep their mouths shut in the hope of plum after retirement jobs, the General has been extremely vocal about the shortcomings in the Army and had pointed this out to the Prime Minister in his subsequently ‘leaked’ letter.

VK Singh was blamed by many Parliamentarians of leaking the letter, with Laloo Prasad Yadav even calling for his immediate sacking. The Press Trust of India (PTI) had subsequently reported that the leak had emanated from within the PMO itself and had named a lady bureaucrat.

An extract from the book released by Aleph earlier in the book in its catalogue had VK Singh talking of his experience of the Bangladesh War where as a young officer he was a part of 2 Rajput that liberated Chittagong. Details pertaining to ‘Race improvement camps’ where pregnant Bengali women begged the Indian Army to shoot them and Pakistani brutality and war crimes will almost certainly impact neighbouring countries. Bangladesh is expected to go to the polls later this year.

As speculation mounts on the contents of the book, certain editors and journalists who have been used by those hostile to the General to make wild charges against him are perhaps the most nervous. Frantic attempts are being made to get advance copies. Given the tweets by the General in the recent past to ‘expose’ nefarious financial deals of a newspaper editor may also figure in the book.

Aleph has made elaborate security arrangements to keep a tight lid on the contents of the book. It is believed that a dummy manuscript has been planted in certain circles to not only throw off some investigative reporters, but also make them look extremely silly for a completely different version is likely to emerge in print.