Does Gen Singh’s bribe claim help or harm Army?

The saga of the chief of the Army Staff, Gen V.K. Singh, gets murkier and murkier. First, the disparity between the much-decorated general’s recorded date of birth and real date of birth occupied the nation’s (and Supreme Court’s) attention for months, even as much dirty linen was washed by friends of both parties on television.

The whispers were that the government wanted to sneak in one of its chosen men and had chosen to press its line.

Now, after the retirement issue has been sorted out and the line of succession is clear, the outgoing chief has levelled allegations of being offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore to clear the purchase of a tranche of sub-standard jeeps. What is more, he has hinted that the offer was made by a lobbyist who was till only recently with the Army and that he had brought the bribe offer to the notice of the defence minister A.K. Antony.

Both incidents are “unprecedented”, as the media loves to call all incidents. But there is little denying that the timing of Gen Singh’s disclosures will put the government already reeling under Coalgate, CWG, 2G and other scams in a spot. Defence bribes are a touchy issue—Bofors claimed the chair of Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and Tehelka‘s Operation Westend still haunts the BJP. That such an incident came during the tenure of “St. Antony” will not be missed by many.

At the same time, there is little denying that, for all his claims to the contrary, Gen Singh’s motives are beginning to acquire a small question mark. Simple question: Do Gen Singh’s moves harm or help the Indian Army?