Four years after The Indian Express published a story about non-notified troop movements towards New Delhi - spooking the Raisina Hills of a possibility of a coup - statement by Congress leader Manish Tewari has brought the story back in the limelight.
Speaking at a book launch on Saturday, Tewari said that the story was not false, although it was unfortunate. Nothing more, nothing less.
Later, speaking to the Indian Express, Tewari also claimed that there was a briefing done after the story was published in April, 2012 by the Standing Committee on Defence, of which he was a part. He said he was privy to the fact although, the Defence ministry maintained the stand that the government had officially taken, privately, the officials confirmed to him that the story'may just be true."
Since then, both social media and the channels have been buzzing with reactions to Tewari's statement. The Congress as a party was quick to say that the party never believed in the report and distanced itself from its own leader.
Union Minister VK Singh who was the primary target of the story, and was embroiled in an age battle with the then UPA government as the then Army chief of the country, has predictably dismissed Tewari's claims. He lashed out at Tewari saying the leader is out of work and thus was making such statements.
Singh also adviced people raising questions on the troop movement on the night of 16 January, 2012, which was described as routine activity by the Army to read his book.
We did read the relevant portion from Singh's 2013 book ''Courage and Conviction" where he briefly touches upon how the fear of a coup has plagued several Indian governments and how the Indian Express story only tried to play up on a fear without any substantial evidence.
Here's a sum up of VK Singh's arguments against the possibility of coup and the Indian Express report-
1. Singh says the fear of a military takeover, a harsh reality in our neighboring Pakistan, has existed in the Indian government's psyche since Jawaharlal Nehru's time.
2. He says the appointment of Baldev Singh as the India's first Defence Minister, a man, Singh says had no military acumen was a result of Nehru's paranoia about a military takeover.
2. "It is no secret that people around Nehru exploited his paranoia of a military coup and started chipping away at the army in an evolving civil-military relationship", he writes in his book.
3. Reflecting on the army-government relationship Singh says "if You want to spook the system, raise the specter of a military takeover. It always works". He also says that Indira Gandhi also inherited similar paranoia about the Army.
4. About the Indian Express story, he says it had "all the ingredients of a C-grade malasa movie script".
5. He writes in his book about the two claims made by the 6 April, 2012 report in the National Daily:
- That Singh had moved a mechanised unit from Hissar and a parachute battalion from Agra towards Delhi on the night of 16 January.
Second claim as made in the report was that the Defence scretary Shashi Kant Sharma had to abort his trip to Malaysia and rush back to the national capital.
- In the book, Singh laughs both these claims.
6. Without naming Shekhar Gupta, who was one of the reporters on the story, VK Singh says about the senior journalist: "The coup story was such a farce that it smashed itself and the principal author lost credibility completely. In subsequent months, he would continue to publish a few blatant untruths, but in a scenario where the waters were being churned around the clock to hid the truth, those were minor issues.