NEW DELHI: The top leadership of the UPA 2 government, in the last few months of 2011 and early 2012, had informally indicated to the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to try and establish that the Army, under its chief, General V.K. Singh, was attempting a coup to topple the government. This was at a time when the UPA 2 government was reeling under charges of immense corruption and the Anna Hazare movement was going on. A few months later, despite the IB categorically reporting that there was absolutely no chance that Gen Singh would carry out any coup, this fiction was “leaked” to the media, which carried the story as was narrated to it by the political leadership, which also included a leader who occupied a top Constitutional post later in his career. General Singh was the first serving military chief to have taken the Union government to court.
Intelligence agency based sources, who were in the heart of the development, told The Sunday Guardian that the then Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh was led to believe by a section of the UPA, including some of his most senior ministers, that a sentiment was building up in the country which would culminate in the toppling of his government.
“A worried Manmohan Singh took this fictitious threat seriously and asked the IB to look into it. The IB, after doing the inquiry, got back stating that there was no chance of a coup as no Army chief, anywhere, could think of staging a coup if he did not have the support of his top officers. The report was shared with the PM and there was no ambiguity regarding the IB’s report that there was zero chance of a coup”, the official who was involved in the thick of the matter, recalled.
However, later, in April 2012, an English newspaper carried a report about the suspected coup attempt, which was allegedly tried on 16 January, on the same day V.K. Singh had approached the Supreme Court on the issue of his date of birth. As per this media report, one “sizeable” unit from the mechanised infantry based in Hisar (Haryana) with its “Russian-made Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) carried on 48 tank transporters” and a “large element” of the airborne 50 Para Brigade, which is based in Agra, had started moving towards Delhi without any authorisation from the Ministry of Defence.
“No coup attempt was undertaken. The incidents and military movements that were termed as a part of a coup attempt, were normal military exercises. We had categorically told the Prime Minister, after carrying out our probe, that nothing of this sort (Army backed coup) was going to happen. But it is true that the PM had come under pressure and had started believing that he might be toppled, considering the anger of the people and the corruption taint that had come to be associated with the UPA. Later, we came to know that four senior ministers from his Cabinet briefed the media about this attempted coup that never was attempted in the first place,” another official stated.
V.K. Singh served as the Army chief from March 2010 before retiring in May 2012, rather than being singed by the high level effort to falsely accuse him of plotting a coup against the Manmohan Singh government.