Panaji: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday suggested that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s recent outburst against the army was due to political frustration caused by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to demonetise high-value currency notes.
Speaking at a poll rally here, Parrikar also said that there is no need to drag the army into a political squabble.
“We can understand the hurt caused by the cancellation of currency notes, but why blame the army? Army does not get into politics. You will never see the army doing politics… There is no need to drag them into a controversy, but that day I actually saw what really is political frustration,” Parrikar said.
He was referring to Banerjee’s outburst on December 2, when she claimed that the Indian Army was trying to plot a political coup, while army personnel were conducting a survey of vehicles at various toll booths in West Bengal.
“We have secured the borders of this country, we have secured the economy of the country. Another bigger decision was to demonetise 1,000- and 500-rupee notes. As a result, many are facing problems. Some days back, I was listening to a statement of a Chief Minister of a state. Army was conducting a survey. It is a routine,” Parrikar said.
The Defence Minister said that such surveys were conducted as a routine, twice or once a year, to gauge the carrying capacity of roads and maintain a headcount of large vehicles in the area, in case an army movement needs to be conducted.
“The movement is in 10,000s or 15,000s and if one truck carries 20 (personnel), then you do the division… For 1,000 (troops), 50 trucks, then for 10,000 (troops) they will need to move 500 trucks. What is the carrying capacity of the roads, how many lorries do nearby villages have, the army keeps a record of this once or twice a year,” he said.
He also added that toll plazas were used by the army to conduct the survey because vehicles slow down at these points.
“What the Chief Minister thought one doesn’t know. There was chaos at night. When I was going to sleep, I saw a flash on TV that army has taken over. When enquired, they said that we have communicated everything, written letters,” Parrikar said.
The Defence Minister said that the Indian Army had even exchanged correspondence with the state government over the suitability of dates for the survey.
But the survey was delayed by a few days after the state government officials suggested November 28 would not be appropriate due to Bharat Bandh.