Hindu Vivek Kendra
«« Back
HVK Archives: The Battle of Raisina Hill

The Battle of Raisina Hill - Rediff On Net

Posted By Ashok Chowgule (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)
April, 1999

Title: The Battle of Raisina Hill
Publication: Rediff On Net
Date: April, 1999

The Rediff Special/ Admiral J G Nadkarni (retd)

Ever since Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, the erstwhile chief of the naval
staff, was unceremoniously dismissed from his post more than three
months ago, military analysts, historians and students of military
warfare have watched with fascination the public battle waged by the
sacked chief against government forces. The contest is of epic
proportions and brings to mind historic battles of the past like
Austerlitz, Waterloo and the Third battle of Panipat.

Both sides have mustered sizeable forces on their sides. With all the
advantages of an incumbent power, the government was expected to field a
formidable force. Surprisingly, it took a long time mustering its army
which gave the opposition enough time to make full preparation for the
coming offensive. The supreme commander of the government forces, mild
mannered Field Marshall Vajpayee, left most of the actual fighting to
his able and experienced second in command, General George Fernandes.

George, who has tremendous experience in guerrilla warfare gained from
his early union days in Mumbai, had sizeable ground forces, an effective
artillery commanded by his two able subordinates, Generals Mahajan and
Kumaramangalam. The government was well stocked with ammunition and also
possessed state of the art missiles in the form of a vast array of
secret and top secret files, confidential reports from IB and the CBI
and minutes of the meetings. Above all, they had the ultimate nuclear
and defensive weapon in the form of the Official Secrets Act, which
could be used in Parliament and public whenever the opposition appeared
to be gaining an upper hand.

The one area in which the government was weak, at least initially, was
in its propaganda cavalry. A majority of the cavalry -- most friends of
Bhagwat, consisting of retired service officers, defence pundits, talk
show hosts and assorted political columnists -- had aligned itself
solidly with the ex-admiral. However, after a few months, some of them
began to desert the Bhagwat camp and either amused themselves with other
activities or joined the government forces.

At the start of his campaign, however, General Bhagwat was able to
muster a formidable and a well-balanced army, within days of his
sacking. He could always rely on his experienced cavalry to embarrass
government forces by their well-planned and frequent charges into the
enemy camp. The cavalry led a full frontal charge during the first month
of the campaign and selective forays subsequently. In addition, the
admiral had mustered sizeable artillery and was well stocked with
ammunition, no doubt carefully collected during his days in the service.

The battle has so far seen three distinct phases. The first phase
commenced on the very day the chief was dismissed, when Bhagwat's able
second in command, Lt General Niloufer Bhagwat, launched a full
artillery attack on the government from her headquarters in Rajaji Marg.
During this phase, both generals -- Bhagwat and George -- were strangely
silent. Obviously both were conserving their energy and planning the
strategy for the expected escalation in the battle when Parliament

Niloufer's full scale artillery attack, supported by the media's cavalry
thrust from the Left flank (where else), sent the government forces
reeling in the first few days of the battle. At one time it appeared
certain than the onslaught would wipe out the enemy. Fortunately for the
government, it retreated within the confines of its formidable fort of
South Block, whose impregnable defences were able to stand the Bhagwat
artillery offensive.

Although well planned, General Niloufer made a serious tactical mistake
in her initial attack. Apparently she was not conversant with the
Principles of War, one of which is 'concentration.' She not only took on
too many targets but kept shifting her aim frequently. Thus at one time
or another she took aim on Defence Secretary Ajit Kumar, Bhagwat's
replacement Admiral Sushil Kumar, Vice Admiral Harinder Singh, the
Akalis, arms dealers and some ex-chiefs before finally settling on
George. By the middle of February, Bhagwat's artillery was running out
of steam and ammunition. Some of his cavalrymen had begun to desert him.
Talk shows were beginning to tire of the Bhagwat episode and bringing in
fresher faces. Above all another general in distant Mumbai was beginning
to push Bhagwat off the front pages by of his antics. The result was the
end of phase one and a temporary lull in the campaign.

By mid-March, Niloufer was sidelined and retired to her barracks in the
Supreme Court and General Bhagwat decided to take full control of his
forces himself. He had decided his first and primary target would have
to be his one time superior turned enemy, George Fernandes. The second
phase of the battle began on March 21 when the ex-admiral held his, now
famous, press conference in the premises of the Press Club and launched
a full scale attack on George and the government. Unfortunately,
moderation and restraint are not the admiral's known qualities. With his
blunderbuss type of tirade on all and sundry, Bhagwat succeeded in
alienating a large section of FoBs (Friends of Bhagwat, not Bill), some
of whom launched random attacks of their own on the Bhagwat forces.

Government forces, which were on the defensive until then, launched a
massive counter attack soon after. General George, no mean strategist
himself, led the attack from the front making full use of the weapons
and arms in the possession of the government. Each of Bhagwat's
accusation was countered with meticulously prepared clarifications and
explanations. His lies and half truths were nailed. To a large extent
George succeeded in exposing the ex-admiral, routing his forces and

Just when it appeared that Bhagwat would be decimated, his luck changed.
His forces have now been joined by two major allies, the armies under
Field Marshalls Jayalalitha and Sonia Gandhi. Jayalalitha brings to the
battle her reputation as a master strategist. Her forces are not
numerous, in fact only about 19 or so, but like Blucher's cavalry at
Waterloo, they can completely change the result of a battle. Already her
actions have begun to put George on the defensive, at least temporarily.
Her senior advisers have apparently warned her of the dangers of getting
too close to the temperamental and mercurial admiral. She may give a
helping hand by letting loose her artillery in Parliament but is wary of
getting too entangled with the likes of Bhagwat.

Incidentally, both his new allies have succeeded in sidelining General
Bhagwat himself, who is now reduced to making weak noises from his
residence. George the Giant Killer has succeeded in destroying his
opponent's credibility and in his newly found offensive avatar is all
ready to taken on the combined forces under Jaya and Sonia.

The Battle of Raisina Hill is not yet over but the end is in sight. By
the end of May the inevitable will happen. A whole lot of hue and cry
will result in status quo ante, the public and the politicians will
forget Bhagwat, George Fernandes will return to the defence ministry and
Bhagwat will begin to write his memoirs.

The first showers will arrive and the long hot summer will finally be

(Admiral J G Nadkarni (retd), former chief of the naval staff, is a
frequent contributor to these pages. )

Back                          Top

«« Back
  Search Articles
  Special Annoucements