New Delhi: Proceedings in parliament were adjourned on Monday, even as the opposition demanded suspension of Question Hour and an immediate inquiry into a newspaper report that quoted Chief of Army Staff General V.K. Singh as saying that he was offered a bribe of Rs.14 crore from an equipment lobbyist to clear the purchase of a tranche of 600 sub-standard vehicles.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) criticized the UPA-II Government for not clarifying the issue and coming out clean on the matter that was a serious allegation with huge national security ramifications, Congress spokesman Manish Tiwari said that General Singh should have informed the government and provided proof to substantiate his claim of a bribe being offered to him.
Tiwari further said that if General Singh’s claim was true, it should be investigated as per the law of the land.
In a recent interview to The Hindu newspaper, General V.K. Singh alleged that an equipment lobbyist offered him a bribe of Rs.14 crore, which he reported to Defence Minister A.K. Antony.
General Singh spoke on a variety of issues, including the controversy surrounding his date of birth and the "shocking" state of affairs in the army, which had allowed the chief to be offered a bribe.
The General told The Hindu that the vehicles, 7,000 of which were already in use in the army, had been sold over the years at exorbitant prices with no questions asked.
He said there was no proper facility where they could be serviced and maintained and yet they continued to be sold to the army.
"Just imagine, one of these men had the gumption to walk up to me and tell me that if I cleared the tranche, he would give me Rs.14 crore. He was offering a bribe to me, to the Army Chief. He told me that people had taken money before me and they will take money after me."
General Singh said the brazenness of the act shocked him out of his wits.
"I was shocked. If somebody comes and tells you, you will get so much, what can you do?"
He said the man had recently retired from the Army, indicating how deeply entrenched the problem was.
Singh said that when he met Antony and reported the matter, he told him: "If you think I''m a misfit, I will walk out."
Asked what had brought the army to the state where the Chief could be offered a bribe, he said: "Obviously somewhere our standards of probity and integrity have fallen."
According to General Singh, it was because he had cracked down on corruption that he was targeted on his date of birth.
"But things are fast unraveling, and you will soon see the hand behind the drama. You will soon see who the sutradhar of the play is."