"He must be completely frustrated. One of us is named by the inquiry against him. Why doesn't he set the record straight by naming the rest among us he believes have been getting those funds," said a senior National Conference minister.

Taking exception to Singh's allegations, NC provincial president Devender Rana said during a television debate, "It is indeed a sad and unfortunate day for the Indian nation and the Indian Army in particular that the former army chief is making such reckless and unsubstantiated statements."

Rana asked VK Singh to name the ministers of Jammu and Kashmir who have taken money. "If the name of any NC minister figures, he will be sacked by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as the NC believes in morality and probity in public life. As far as (Ghulam Hassan) Mir is concerned, after the statement of General Singh, it is he who has to address to his conscience," Rana said.

Opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP) patron, Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said that the Central Government must restrain the army and intelligence agencies from trying to interfere in democratic institutions.

"People in Kashmir have been living under an impression that everything, including elections, are stage-managed by intelligence agencies. This impression needs to be defeated by massive participation of the people in democratic exercise like the elections," Sayeed said at a public meeting in Jammu city.

While hardline separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said that the former army chief's statement has only proved what the separatists have been saying for years, others in the separatist camp said "the so-called mainstream Kashmiri politicians are responsible for choking the political space in Kashmir".

The common man was taken aback by the former army chief's revelations."VK Singh said that the practice of paying state ministers has been very old and was not started by him. This also means ministers are made and unmade in the state with the blessings of the intelligence agencies," said Bashir Ahmad, 60, a retired government servant.

"He should also have given the names of our future ministers," Bashir said.
"Intelligence agencies have been paying not only the ministers but also NGOs and other opinion makers as revealed by the former army chief. Who does one trust here now?" said Javaid Ahmad, 43, a resident of Lal Bazar area of Srinagar.

(Agencies)

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