Despite Congress rap, Tewari stands by troop remark

New Delhi, Jan 10 (IANS) Congress leader Manish Tewari on Sunday defended his claim on a 2012 controversial troop movement towards Delhi, even after the Congress pulled him up and central minister V.K. Singh, the then army chief, came out with an emphatic denial.

“Whatever I said yesterday (Saturday), I have nothing more to add or subtract to that,” Tewari told reporters on Sunday, a day after commenting that the news report on the troop movement that had created a stir was true.

Minister of State for External Affairs and former general V.K. Singh, who was the target of the 2012 report, on Sunday dismissed Tewari’s statement, saying the Congress leader was “jobless”.

Tewari said at a book release function on Saturday that he was on parliament’s Standing Committee on Defence when the reported incident took place. The report, he said, was “unfortunate but true”.

“…at that point in time I used to serve in the Standing Committee on Defence. It’s unfortunate but the story was true, story was correct.”

This drew a sharp reaction from Singh.

“Manish Tewari is jobless these days. I have written a book, tell him to read it,” Singh told reporters in Ujjain.

Contacted by IANS, Singh said he had “no comments” on the issue.

Tewari responded on Twitter that he would love to read Singh’s book “provided he promises to read mine – in offing!”.

The Congress not only distanced itself from Tewari’s statement but – using strong words – advised him not to comment on the incident which was said to have taken place when the Congress-led UPA was in power. It added that Tewari was not an official spokesman of the party.

“When this alleged incident regarding the army is supposed to have taken place, senior ministers had even then clarified, and I am now clarifying, that there is absolutely no truth in the allegation,” Congress spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said here.

“In fact, it was also clarified (then) that some troop movements are necessary, inbuilt and inevitable part of a defence mechanism. But to read into it all the other elements is completely wrong,” he said.

Singhvi pointed out that Tewari was never a member of any decision-making body on defence, nor was he a party spokesperson or spokesperson on issues pertaining to external affairs and defence.

“He is neither the authorised spokesperson of the party, nor the spokesperson on foreign or defence affairs, nor privy to any of the committees or decision-making group,” he said.

According to a published report, late on the night of January 16, 2012, the day Singh approached the Supreme Court on the issue of his date of birth, intelligence agencies reported an unexpected and non-notified movement by a key military unit from Hisar in Haryana in the direction of New Delhi.

Both the then Congress government and the army denied the report.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who was also then a member of the Standing Committee on Defence, said on Sunday that there was no discussion ever in the panel on the issue.

He said discussions in parliamentary panels cannot be brought out in the public domain.

Satpal Maharaj, who was a Congress MP and headed the parliamentary panel on defence in 2012, also said that the troop movement was defined to them as “routine”.

“We were told the army movements keep happening,” Maharaj, who joined the BJP in 2014, told reporters.

The Janata Dal-United (JD-U), however, demanded Singh’s resignation from the Narendra Modi government following Tewari’s claim. JD-U spokesman K.C. Tyagi sought a probe into the entire affair.

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