The commotion over Indian Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh's claim that a $2.7-million bribe was offered to him by an ex-army-officer-turned lobbyist for clearing the purchase of sub-standard vehicles led to the adjournment of both houses of Parliament on Monday.
Gen. Singh, whose ties with the government have been frayed thin owing to a birth date controversy, told a national daily that an equipment lobbyist, who recently retired from the army, offered him the Rs.14-crore bribe.
“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 told The Hindu in an interview.
He further revealed that about 7,000 inferior vehicles were already in use in the Indian Army and had been sold at very expensive prices over the years, with no inquiry into it.
Singh said he reported the bribe offer to the Defence Ministry, following which Defence Minister A.K. Antony has ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the matter.
This issue has once again given the Opposition a chance to take up the matter in the Parliament against the Congress-led ruling coalition party United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which is already facing the ire of the anti-corruption movement led by popular social activist Anna Hazare.
Revelations about the bribery offer came just a day after Hazare’s day-long hunger strike against corruption in New Delhi on Sunday, where he set an August deadline for the government to file cases against its 14 corrupt cabinet ministers, who allegedly took bribes.
Hazare’s persistent campaign and a protracted hunger strike last year forced the government to draft an anti-corruption bill.
Hazare, who is fighting to convert the Jan Lokpal bill (Citizen's ombudsman Bill) into a law, also demanded for completion of the trials against all the 1,300 elected representatives with criminal records by September 2012.
The Jan Lokpal bill seeks to establish an independent body for investigating corruption complaints against bureaucrats and politicians. If made into a law, it will help in deterring corruption by ensuring investigation without waiting for the government’s approval.
Singh’s allegation could offer a fresh platform for strengthening the cause of Anna Hazare, who has set 2014, the year for next general elections, as the deadline for the government to convert the Jan Lokpal bill into a law. Though many ruling leaders see his movement against corruption as a vote bank political stunt, they may not disagree with the palpable social change that the law will bring.