Politics over propriety

Major General Singha is in the eye of storm for merely being an officer and a gentleman


Ajay Singh | March 16, 2011

One is perpetually amazed at Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s propensity to keep hitting the headlines. Perhaps Major General IS Singha was blissfully ignorant of a section of the media’s proclivity to examine with a microscope anything pertaining to Modi. The biggest mistake he made was to invite Modi to inaugurate “know your army” programme. Nothing wrong in that in terms of propriety, of course, but politically it turned out to be a landmine.

The entire story is a classic example how a group of individuals does not hesitate in holding even an institution like the army hostage to its political prejudices. Major General Singha invited Modi to inaugurate the function in the former’s capacity as the head of the political executive in the state. As the host, Major General Singha had no choice but to welcome his guest.

What is particularly important is the fact that the senior-most army officer in Gujarat did not shower praise on Modi’s political prowess. His frame of reference was the army and he merely said that Modi was as efficient as the army.  “He sets deadline for completion of the projects and then ensures that targets are achieved on time,” Major General Singha said.

Did he say something wrong? Was he expected to lambast the chief minister and refer to the Godhra and post-Godhra riots?  By all accounts, General Singha’s praise for Modi was nothing but a customary welcome address which referred to one aspect of the guest’s personality. And this aspect is acknowledged even by the Modi-baiters. More often than not, Modi is referred to by his opponents as a ruthless executioner of his vision. But if any army general says it, he is hauled over coals for this indiscretion.

What is absolutely ridiculous is the report that the army headquarters has sought a clarification from Singha. This raises a question: would it be proper if the general had attacked Modi after inviting him as the chief guest? In India, the army’s apolitical nature stemmed from the fact that the army is subordinate to the political executive. And this is a tribute to the army discipline that it did not show any political inclination even when Indira Gandhi imposed emergency in 1975-77. Major General Singha has only followed this tradition of the Indian Army when he praised his guest who happens to be a democratically elected chief minister of Gujarat, the most crucial state that borders Pakistan.



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