Barely hours before the Election Commission made the all-important announcement on Wednesday regarding the schedule for the Lok Sabha polls, which also brought into force the Model Code of Conduct, Defence Minister A K Antony went into a publicity overdrive listing the “achievements” during his over seven year-long tenure in office, which included the cancellation of the Italian major AgustaWestland’s deal for supplying 12 VVIP helicopters.
The 26-page release by the Ministry of Defence(MoD) spokesperson also credited Antony with the success of the Arjun Main Battle Tank(MBT), Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) and Vikramaditya aircraft carrier project.
However, it was silent on the recent mishap on board INS Sindhuratna on February 26, the earlier one involving INS Sindhurakshak on August 14, the killing of Indian jawans at the LoC by the Pakistani Army regulars on two occasions last year and the 21-day incursion by the Chinese PLA troops into Depsang Valley in Ladakh in April-May.
And the timing of the minister’s publicity blitz, coming as it did just two months before the end of the UPA-II Government’s tenure and the apparent race against the clock to beat the Model Code kicking in, was not missed on anyone.
Antony had said at last month’s DefExpo that he thought the longest unbroken tenure in the MoD was “more than enough” for him and that he just wanted to move out.
Interestingly, the corruption charges and cases that could have tainted Antony’s ‘Mr Clean’ image were turned into “achievements” for ordering CBI probes into them.
Even the resignation of Navy chief D K Joshi -- the only service chief to do so in independent India’s history -- “owning moral responsibility” for the series of Naval mishaps, which occurred during the past six months, did not find a mention among the “achievements”.
According to the MoD release, ordering CBI probes into alleged scams like the Rolls- Royce bribery case, Adarsh housing scheme in Mumbai and the defence land scams in Srinagar and Jodhpur were some of the instances of Antony’s “anti-corruption” drive.
“But all these achievements hardly add up to how Antony will be remembered in South Block. Behind his characteristic unassuming demeanour, there exists a value-system which comes down heavily when irregularities are detected in defence deals.”
“He will not stand by any act of omission or commission that will bring the armed forces into disrepute or tarnish the ideals of the officers, no matter, however, influential or mighty the accused might be,” said the release, which sought to eulogise the minister.