Pawar makes veiled criticism of army chief

Mumbai: Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar today appeared critical of Army chief V K Singh over his allegation that he was offered bribe to clear a defence deal. "When it is a matter of bribe, the onus on the person making the charge is to disclose it the same day and not wait for one-and-a half years," he told reporters here.

The former defence minister was asked about Gen Singh`s complaint he was offered a bribe of Rs 14 crore by a retired officer to clear a tranche of "sub-standard" vehicles. The CBI has registered a preliminary enquiry in this regard. On the army chief`s views on availability of critical ammunition for the armed forces, Pawar said, "I don`t believe there ever was a situation when in the country`s security was compromised."

Pawar expressed his displeasure over the timing of the General`s observations. "The revelations came on a day when top leaders of China, Brazil, South Africa and Russia were in the national capital (for BRICS summit)." Asked about the letter he wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Pawar said, "Some decisions were taken contrary to the discussions… I though I will highlight the farmers` unease before the prime minister."

In his letter, Pawar said the government`s policies related to cotton, sugar and milk were hurting farmers who are being asked to subsidies the industry. Noting that he was of the opinion that there should be no export-import restrictions on essential commodities, he said, "The switch on switch off policy has affected our image."