The opposition Congress party criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday over the appointment of new army chief Lt Gen Bipin Rawat, with the government overlooking a tradition of elevating senior-most officers as service chiefs.
The Congress asked why the Centre did not follow the seniority principle in appointing Lt Gen Rawat, the vice-chief in the army.
“Why has Seniority not been respected in Aptt.of Army Chief?Why have Lt Gen PRAVIN Bakshi & Lt Gen Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded Mr PM?” questioned former Union minister and Congress leader Manish Tewari on Twitter.
Eastern Army commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi is the senior-most official after incumbent army chief Gen Dalbir Singh, who retires on December 31. Southern Army commander Lt Gen PM Hariz is the next senior-most official.
Tewari claimed that Lt Gen Rawat is “not third but fourth senior most. Even Lt Gen BS Negi army commander Central Command is senior to him”.
4/4 and I only hope& pray it is untrue that this supersession in the Army is not a precursor to suppressions in other institutions Like SC??— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 17, 2016
Political parties have generally avoided commenting on internal matters of the armed forces, including key appointments. But the Congress, which has targeted PM Modi over the demonetisation exercise, upped the ante against the government with Tewari’s pointed questions.
The Left, too, questioned Rawat’s appointment. CPI(M) politburo member Md Salim said: “Generally, we never comment on issues related to the armed forces. But it seems that the government is trying to change the traditions and norms of India’s major institutions.”
There were early indications that the government might not follow established norms. The names of news chiefs are conventionally announced 2-3 months before an incumbent retires. But this time the next appointments have come barely a fortnight before the incumbents retire.
In early 1980s, Lt Gen SK Sinha was overlooked in the appointment of Gen AS Vaidya as the army chief.
Rawat will be the second consecutive chief from the Gorkha Rifles. He will succeed Gen Dalbir Singh who was commissioned into 4/5 Gorkha Rifles.