THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Former Defence Minister A K Antony, who was at the helm when the controversy regarding "unauthorise movement of troops" erupted in 2012, Sunday stick to his stand on the issue, saying that he had clarified the matter in Parliament.
As the controversy reared its head again after former Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari claimed that the report of troop movement in 2012 was "unfortunate but true," Antony, who is in Thiruvananthapuram, said "I've already spoken in Parliament regarding this issue. Please see my previous comments."
Antony had displayed an uncharacteristic aggression in denying the report, the day it appeared in a prominent English daily. At that time he was in Visakhapatnam for the commissioning of nuclear submarine INS Chakra.
"Absolutely baseless. The Army has already explained this. It is usual, natural activities. Nothing unusual. We are absolutely confident of the patriotism of the armed forces. Don't question their patriotism. They will not do anything to undermine Indian democracy,'' a visibly angry Antony told newspersons when a UNI reporter asked his reaction to the reported troop movement.
"I am proud of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and the Coast Guard,'' Antony had asserted.
The issue figured prominently in meeting of the standing committee on defence, with MIM member Asaduddin Owaisi asking then defence secretary Shashikant Sharma whether there was any truth in the report. "If this is true, then it is most unfortunate, and is aimed at undermining our democratic set-up,'' he had said.
Sharma, who is now Comptroller General of India, had dismissed the report as incorrect.
Tewari had last night created a flutter in the political circle by saying that to the best of his knowledge the troops' movement (suggesting a coup attempt) was true. "At that time, I used to serve in the Standing Committee of Defence. And it is unfortunate, but the story was true,'' he had said at a book release function while replying to a question from audience.
Antony had also turned down talks of a rift between the government and the Army. "Nothing is wrong in relation between the armed forces and MoD. I am very comfortable with the chiefs (three service chiefs). Sometime they think they need more and we are trying to give them more support. But it is not a fight.'' The Defence Ministry had also come out with a written statement.
"The points raised in the report have already been clarified by the Army...such exercises are conducted by the Army from time to time", the Ministry had said in a statement.
The BJP, as the principle opposition party at that time had come up with a measured response. It said it was 'assured' by clarifications from the Army and the government on reports of troop movement toward the Capital, but insisted that the Prime Minister should take a proactive step in restoring equilibrium between the Defence ministry and armed forces.
"There are reports today in a newspaper of unusual movement of Army units around Delhi in January. Both the government and the Army have categorically denied it. We are assured to learn about this denial," the BJP spokesperson had said.