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HVK Archives: Bhagwat=27s_sacking_is_not_=27communal=2C=27_he? _deserves_it?Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 16:49:43 -0000

Bhagwat=27s_sacking_is_not_=27communal=2C=27_he? _deserves_it?Date: Wed, 6 Jan 1999 16:49:43 -0000 - The Free Press Journal

Virendra Kapoor ()
January 2, 1999

Title: Bhagwat's sacking is not 'communal,' he deserves it
Author: Virendra Kapoor
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: January 2, 1999

Though no doubt unfortunate. it will be highly mischievous to
give the dismissal of Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat as Navy Chief a
communal colour. Sadly enough, such attempts have already
begun. The sacked chief and his more forthcoming wife, Niloufer,
have been now joined by a section of the media in their
nefarious attempts to make it out to be a 'communal' versus
'secular' issue. Indeed, Admiral Bhagwat in his immediate
reaction to his sack revealed a mindset unworthy of one
entrusted with the task of heading the naval command.

His hardly veiled attempt to dub the Vajpayee Government as
communal and to paint himself as a martyr in the cause of
secularism might go down well with twisted minds who without any
rationale espy in the civilian-military confrontation the shades
of the infamous Dreyfus case. But for the vast majority of
people and independent observers it was at best a case of a
Naval Chief with his own hidden agenda defying the established
civilian/political order for collateral purposes and, in the
end, inviting his own sack.

No other construction can be put in his parting message to all
Navy officers and sailors: "I am confident that each one of you
will uphold the ideals of our secular democratic republic and
our sacred constitution no matter what the price we pay." In the
backdrop of his and his vociferous wife's bid to communalise the
issue, there was not an iota of doubt that Admiral Bhagwat was
at pains to point out that the BJP-led coalition in New Delhi
had violated the secular tenets of the Constitution by its order
dismissing him. That was very close to inciting the naval
officers and sailors to do something unheard of in the brief
history of Indian democracy. Mercifully, nobody sensible except
the newscasters of nightly TV news with their own anti-Vajpayee
agenda took prominent note of Bhagwat's parting cry.

Again, those desperately seeking to defend the indefensible
actions of Admiral Bhagwat leading to his dismissal were being
too clever by half when they blame the Defence Ministry for not
sharing enough information with the nation to justify its
unprecedented action. Fortunately, the Defence Ministry is
unlikely to rise to the bait and open its files to all manner of
people. Suffice it to say that there was enough evidence
available to the public to persuade most people to conclude that
someone like Admiral Bhagwat should not have been appointed the
Chief of the Naval Staff in the first place.

Whether or not his litigatory pursuits stemmed from the fact
that he had the services of a lawyer available gratis in his
activist wife, Niloufer, the fact remained that Admiral Bhagwat
had made it a habit of petitioning courts at the drop of a hat.
It has now been revealed that he filed a bulky petition in the
Bombay High Court in 1990 making all sorts of wild charges
against the then Navy Chief Admiral J. G. Nadkarni and a host of
other senior officers.

Sample this nugget from a balanced mind. Rear Admiral Bhagwat
said petition in the Bombay High Court: "There is a US
(American) coterie in the Indian Navy and Admiral Nadkarni is
very much part of it. All key appointments in the last few
years were being held by Naval War College, USA, alumni which on
the face of it is a policy discriminatory... this is not in the
interest of the national security..."

Further, he went on to charge Admiral Nadkarni and the Ministry
of Defence of promoting officers "who are morally pliable... who
do not have the professionalism, moral integrity and
determination to preserve the fighting spirit of the Navy."

Should you think that he was given to berating only so-called
'communal' Prime Ministers like Vajpayee, consider this. In his
petition, Rear Admiral Bhagwat did not even spare the then Prime
Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh. The secularist messiah, Singh
was accused of being 'totally influenced by bureaucrats... who
(Singh) does not apply his mind".

It is indeed scandalous that after making such grave and wholly
unsubstantiated charges against his superiors in the Navy and
against the head of the Executive, Rear Admiral Bhagwat was not
only allowed to continue in service but promoted to the rank of
a full Admiral and made the Navy Chief. No bigger monstrosity
could have been perpetrated on the Indian Navy than this.

Maybe the fact that the Moscow-friendly Inder Kumar Gujral as
Prime Minister had committed the foul deed of appointing Admiral
Bhagwat as the Navy Chief held the key to the latter's
worldview. Or maybe it had something to do with the Admiral's
good wife who does the speaking for him and who flies the pro-
left flag as a mascot for promotion of self and her husband. A
day after the sack, Mrs Bhagwat told newsmen that the Navy was
to buy thousands of crores worth of sophisticated stuff and that
both Germany and Russia were trying to sell it to us. But then
she unwittingly revealed her own pro-Russian propensity when she
said that her husband was told by the Defence Minister George
Fernandes to source the purchases from Germany (while he and
presumably she as well wanted the Navy to contract it from
Russian firms). It may be pertinent to mention here that the
Russians have been known to have funded in the past the Moscow-
friendly individuals and groups on the successful completion of
purchase agreements of armaments and spares.

Although a lawyer, it seems to have escaped Mrs Niloufer Bhagwat
that her disclosures about alleged conversations between the
Defence Minister and the Navy Chief could be violative of the
Official Secrets Act. Unless it was her case that Admiral
Bhagwat's duties as a husband superseded those as the Chief of
the Indian Navy, there was no way she could. have been privy to
official matters and top-secret conversations. Alternatively,
these were far from true, nay, false, being. conjured up in the
feverish imagination of a woman who for all practical purposes
is alleged to have driven her husband to his dismissal.

When asked to comment on his dismissal, apart from making that
unfortunate one-line statement about the secular character of
the Constitution, former Admiral said that the Press should meet
his wife. She would do the speaking for him. And she did. And
continues to do so much to the glee of the elements in the
polity and the Press who were viscerally hostile to the present
dispensation at the Centre. So warped were these elements in
their collective outlook that they had allowed themselves to be
persuaded that a Defence Ministry headed of all the people by
George Fernandes could be communal. And this when the charge
was being made by a person whose record for making
unsubstantiated and wild charges was yet to be matched by any
other armed forces official of that high a rank.

There was no doubt that the sacked Admiral had tried to clothe
his own partisanship in matters of promotions, transfers,
appointments etc under-his command as a civilian versus armed
forces issue. But this had not prevented him to seek the
intervention of the civilian authorities and/or courts when he
had found himself dissatisfied with his own posting, transfer,
promotion, etc. in his long career in the Navy. Rear Admiral
Satyindra Singh (Retd), a respected commentator on matters of
national security, hit the nail on the head: "When it suited him
he raised the issue of the supremacy of the Cabinet in the
Bombay High Court in his petition in 1990. Now that the Cabinet
decision is not to his liking he talks of interference by the
Cabinet and the Defence Ministry in his functioning as the Naval

As for his, petition in the Bombay High Court, he withdrew it as
soon as his purpose was served, but not before the then Navy
Chief Admiral Nadkarni had in writing called his bluff.
"Bhagwat had on occasion shown a lack of discipline by passing
superiors and failing to follow orders which were not to his
liking." Gujral, a known Moscow-centric politician, inflicted
incalculable harm on the traditions and prestige of the Indian
Navy, when he appointed a man with such a terrible record as
Admiral Bhagwat as its chief. It is unfortunate that there was
an ugly public confrontation between Admiral Bhagwat and the
Government but the country can at last heave a sigh of relief
that the Indian Navy at last is rid of such an ill-suited man as
its chief commanding officer.

Two more points need to be made. One, the Government will be
failing in its duty if it continued to retain the services of
Vice Admiral Harinder Singh who had emulated the sacked Admiral
insofar as he too-had levelled wholly unsubstantiated and wild
charges against the then Navy Chief in his petition in the
Calcutta High Court. He too must be sacked forthwith. For, he
too had taken the Bhagwat route for self-promotion.

Two, those whom the Government had duly taken into confidence
and whom it had shown the secret dossier containing the serious
case for the dismissal of Admiral Bhagwat should have the
decency to come forward and support the Government action. Or,
at the very least, they should have the moral courage to
dissuade their respective parties from denouncing the Government
for the sack of Admiral Bhagwat. Will Messrs Manmohan Singh,
Sharad Pawar, Inder Kumar Gujral have the courage to stand up
and be counted in defence of the higher principles which
informed the making of the Indian Constitution? Or must they
like Mrs and Admiral Bhagwat (sacked) play petty politics?

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