New Delhi, December 18 (Indian Express): The Indian government’s decision to appoint Lt General Bipin Rawat as the new Army chief has unleashed a fierce battle between the government and the opposition.
The opposition is opposed to the appointment of a junior officer, superseding seniors like Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, and Lt Gen P M Hariz.
Lt. Gen Rawat is currently the Vice Chief of Army Staff and would take over as Army Chief after Gen Dalbir Singh retires on December 31. Gen Rawat is an Infantry officer, having been commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles.
As per Senior Defense Ministry sources, Gen Rawat’s appointment was made on the basis of “merit and suitability,” considering that he has had more that 10 years of experience in counter-insurgency operations and on the Line of Control in Kashmir. He also served on the China border.
Soon after the appointment of the new Army Chief, the Congress and the Left questioned the government on its motive.
Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “ With all due respect to Gen Rawat’s professionalism there is a legitimate question as to why supersession has taken place.Did the government have anything against the the seniors? Was their professionalism in question? What was the reason? The army being a public institution, the country deserves to get answers.”
CPI leader D. Raja described the decision as “very unfortunate.”
“Appointments in the army have become controversial. Appointments in the judiciary are already controversial. Appointments of CVCs, CBI director and to Central Information Commission, all these top-level appointments are becoming very controversial. There is a need for transparency,” he said.
The last time such a supersession had taken place was in 1983 under the Indira Gandhi- led government appointed Lt.Gen A S Vaidya as Army Chief superseding Lt Gen S K Sinha.
When reminded of the previous instance of supersession under the Congress government, Tiwari called it “complete nonsense”.
“Every situation has its own context and, therefore nothing can be extrapolated out of context in order to justify the present case. Therefore the government needs to answer this legitimate question as to why these senior army commanders were superseded,”
Lashing out at the opposition, the BJP said that the Congress’ way of publicizing appointments shows its frustration after being pushed to the margins by repeated electoral defeats.
“They are all competent officers but under the prevailing security scenario, the government found Lt Gen Rawat to be the most suitable candidate. We will urge all political parties not to do politics over the appointment,” BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.