Saturday, January 05, 2008

Panag ka Panga

Don't know if you people have been following the clash between Army chief Gen Deepak Kapoor and Northern Commander Lt Gen HS Panag. Well, if you haven't, here's the gist. The Army has recommended that Gen Panag, currently a year into his tenure at Command HQ in Udhampur, be transferred to the far less operationally prestigious Central Command HQ in Lucknow. There have been some pretty hard reports in the media about why this is. The other fact is that Gen Panag is a stickler for the rules and has engendered a raj in the Northern Command that comes down harder than ever on fraud and corruption. Speculation is rife that Gen Panag may have rubbed the Army chief (his predecessor in Udhampur) the wrong way by sending his scam-sniffer dogs a little too deep into the paperwork. Either way, as has been pointed out so succintly by my colleague Sujan Datta in his front page report in today's Telegraph, the Army is steeply divided into two camps -- the Panag camp, and the Kapoor camp. This is a dangerous game, but with a year to go before he takes off his lanyard, Gen Panag has decided to firebomb. He's meeting Defence Minister AK Antony today to see if he can spike Gen Kapoor's transfer recommendation.

Those close to Panag confide that the officer is positively heady from the public image that he has managed to obtain for himself over a year (sounds like a certain Defence Minister we all know so well now!). But it must be said that a chief's prerogative to transfer is just that -- his prerogative. However, it must also be said that it just doesn't look right that a Northern Commander who, for once, is actually devoting a substantial fraction of his energies in cleaning up dirt, stands to be shunted off mid-narrative to an area where he'll probably have to quietly bide his time before retiring at the end of the year. But that again, is not the point. What if the Army chief has real reasons? Well if he does, how come Gen Panag still wants to meet Antony? Incidentally, according to a report in Mail Today, Panag spoke out quite a bit about corruption in Northern Command at the October Commanders Conference in Delhi -- that wasn't taken lightly apparently.

The Army publicity machinery has, of course, shouted itself hoarse about how these are "misleading plants" and "absolutely wrong" stories. The fact is, this isn't a story that's come from the media. Every single Lieutenant General is talking about it. Now I'll admit there are a large number of Lt Gens who's tattle should be taken with some chat masala, but when you've got all of them talking about it, you know there's something. It just doesn't look right. It doesn't fit. Which is why on the channel I worked for, we said, "We'd like to put a simple question to the Army chief. When he has talked so highly of cracking down on corruption, why interrupt the work of a brother officer?"

The real truth is still hidden in the unusual quantity of propaganda emerging from all and sundry about what is, funnily enough, purportedly a "routine transfer". It's messy. And it could get worse.


Anonymous said...

There are two things I wish to point out here. First is that the chief cannot single-handedly shift army commanders at will. The other is that Northern command, which is the most critical command, has been paralysed by the commander's propensity to start enquiries. The issues are hillarious beginning from low weight eggs (48 g vs 40 g) . I know the tent scam but it would be interesting for you to find out what its all about.

Anonymous said...

Brother, even I know the tent scam, and so do most journos....youre right that the Command is busy in inquiries and si doing nothing about operational preparedness. But in the recent past not many commanders have been moved in the middle of their tenure and atleast the officer should have been given the reason..Nandrajog superannuates after completion of his tenure, and P K Singh is sitting in Jaipur for the past two years !!......and by the way the Chief may not have all the powers but he definitely has a major say and his decision is usually not challenged and even Antony has decided to honour it!

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon., How do you know the officer hasn't been assigned any reason. As per my info he has been clearly told the reason for his movement. The reason cited was that he has been ineffective during past one year in this most strategic command. The move got accelerated with Benazir's murder and ensuing unrest in Pak.

If he hadn't been asigned any reason, he should have asked for it in person rather than accusing others of undermining his cleanliness drive and going to media about it.

Anonymous said...

LOL...ha ha ha ha...Benazir' assasination and Pak unrest....what is an Indian army Commander supposed to do?...Last anon..please dot make me laugh so much......and by the way He didnt go to he media.....the media is hounding him and his poor ADC fr some comment...he doesnt even know whats happening ad if he was assigned a reason, then would he have the guts to approach the Antony, and even if he did approach, knowing the above reason, then that means, he doesnt agree with it and feels he is being fixed, which is true also.

Anonymous said...

what kind of message does the current spat send to people serving under panag? The next time any lesser mortal gets a posting order and doesnt like the place or appointment, simply go to the print and electronic media; mix few facts with imagined fiction; conjure up some saucy cooked up story and bypassing authorised channels of communications, you seek intervention of the Govt Ministry! A dangerous unethical precedent indeed!God save indian army!Politicisation of the armed forces has earnestly and openly begun .

sherbir said...

This is why :
If investigations had gone through justice may have come long ago. Where did the money from northern command go-adarsh and the other properties in Gurgaon.
Not benazirs assasination, or incompetent performance.

navnith said...

Those who know Antony know very well that he is only bothered aboput his honest image.He has no speaking skill,competence and personality.His only asset is his honesty and that he is very careful to nurture.Any General making any scam is not his cup of tea.Only his image of honesty should not be sullied.I remember late E.K.Nayanar's comment on him when Antony was the CM "Let him not wear a watch or underwear.That is not our concern.He should govern".Panag case is a typical one.He is not going to do anything himself against Gen.Kapoor since he knows that like Gen.Kaul had Nehru,Gen.Kapoor has some body in the 'High Command'.