Eight years after former Army Chief General VK Singh was accused of staging a coup, engaging in corruption activities and forging his date of birth certificate–he continues to be vindicated for his stand. The Defence Ministry on Tuesday released a circular and announced that it had imposed a one-year ban on all business dealings with Vectra Advanced Engineering Private Limited in relation to the Tatra truck scandal.
I was taught in the army to be never fazed by the enormity of a challenge. That is what inspired me to blow the whistle against #Tatra. A long-drawn battle against corruption is now bearing fruits. The world should sit up and listen.#FightAgainstCorruption #GenerallySaying pic.twitter.com/yXtp2Ej60F
— Vijay Kumar Singh (@Gen_VKSingh) August 25, 2020
The suspension has been approved by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. Any dealing with Vectra Advanced Engineering Private Ltd has been debarred by the Defence Ministry. The ministry has referred to two FIRs registered by the CBI in 2012 – one referring to allegations of corruption in the purchase of Tatra trucks for the army and the second on allegations made by Gen Singh that he had been offered a bribe while in office.
The Tatra Truck bribe scandal
In March 2012, General VK Singh alleged that Lt Gen Tejinder Singh met him 22 September, 2010, and offered him the money on behalf of Vectra group owner Ravi Rishi to clear the file for procurement of 1,676 Tatra HMVs (High Mobility Vehicles) for the army.
After Singh’s expose, the CBI charge-sheeted Tejinder Singh in 2014 for allegedly offering a bribe of ₹14 crores to him on behalf of the supplier of the high-mobility trucks.
General VK Singh had even informed the then Defence Minister AK Antony about the bribe but the latter sat on it and when a CBI investigation began, Antony flipped 180 on his stance and accused the General for not acting on the issue.
Date of Birth controversy
As the matter snowballed into a big issue and when it looked like the moles in the heart of New Delhi’s bureaucracy would be hashed out, the lobbyists ignited a fake date of birth controversy about the General so that he’d retire a year earlier without getting the skeletons out of UPA’s closet.
The army coup fake story planted in the media
When the Tatra Truck bribing scandal investigation started making new waves, another story of an ‘army coup’ was planted in the media circles to take down VK Singh.
The story was first published in The Indian Express on April 4, 2012. The newspaper which time and again has compromised its journalistic integrity by being a lapdog of UPA and Congrees had reported that on January 16 (the day the then army chief General VK Singh approached the Supreme Court on his date of birth issue), central intelligence agencies reported an unexpected and non-notified movement by a mechanized infantry unit from Hisar and a paratroopers detachment from Agra in the direction of the capital.
The UPA government had reportedly asked the Intelligence Bureau in January 2012 to informally find out if the Army was attempting a coup. But the agency had reported back saying there was no such plan to overthrow the government. However, “this fiction was leaked to the media” three months later.
Although the coup story didn’t have a leg to stand on, it made one thing crystal-clear and that was—the story was planted in the media to orchestrate a smear campaign against General VK Singh who was fighting the corrupt officials of the UPA government over the Tatra Trucks and the birth date issue.
“There was little doubt that a very senior bureaucrat in the PMO had been was orchestrating the entire age issue. Ever since I blocked the Tatra files, the name of the person had been cropping up regularly.” VK Kumar had said in one of the interviews back then.
Last year, in a Facebook post, General VK Singh ripped apart the then Indian Express Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta over the 2012 story on the fake coup that was recently debunked by a Sunday Guardian report.
Mocking Shekhar Gupta as “Couptaji”, the minister took a dig at the age-old tradition of projecting the Prime Minister and Army chief in a face-off, as he posted, “When Mr Coupta was recruited by the powers-behind-the-scenes to cleverly imply I was planning a coup, their objective was to not only spook the good Doctor (Dr. Manmohan Singh) and his Italian handler (Sonia Gandhi), it was also the time-honored tactic that had been in vogue to set Nehru versus Thimayya, Shastri versus Chaudhuri, or Indira Gandhi versus Manekshaw. However, earlier these were usually just whispers… which was damaging enough”.
The coup story was not just a political conspiracy but also an attempt to defame the Army. The corruption in the UPA government had reached such alarming levels that the lynchpins sitting in the PMO were ready to throw an army general under the bus, just to cover their tracks.
The coup story that was leaked to the media also showed the striking discrepancies the Manmohan Singh led UPA government had in its tenure. The lobbyists wanted to discredit VK Singh and to achieve their endgame, created a rift between the government and Defence establishments.