A political war of words has broken out over the appointment of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as India’s new army chief, with Opposition parties questioning the government’s decision and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party saying there should be no politics on the issue.
The Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to explain the circumstances around Rawat’s appointment superseding two senior candidates. The Left said appointments in the army and judiciary, of the acting CBI director and to the Central Information Commission have become controversial.
Here’s who said what on the issue:
Congress leader Manish Tewari slammed the government on Sunday for “playing with institutions” and doing politics in the army, even as he wondered if it was “whimsical cherry picking”.
“While Lt Gen Rawat, who is being appointed the COAS, may perhaps have all the requisite credentials, but the fact remains that in a hierarchy conscious organisation where the principle of seniority is almost sacrosanct, the supersession of three senior officers, Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, Lt PM Hariz, and perhaps even Lt Gen BS Negi, raises extremely serious and critical questions of institutional integrity.”
However, senior army officials said that Lt Gen Rawat has only superseded Eastern Army commander Lt Gen Bakshi, the senior-most army commanderon the day present army chief Dalbir Singh retires, and Southern Army commander Lt Gen Hariz.
Tewari said PM Modi should spell out the “compelling reasons” behind the move, and asked: “...is it whimsical cherry picking which has been done by the BJP-led NDA government?”
“Why does the army have to go through unnecessary bloodletting at the top? If it has been done, then reasons need to be put out in the public domain.”
CPI leader D Raja also questioned the government’s move. “Appointments in the army have become controversial, the appointments in the judiciary are already controversial, the appointments of CVC, CBI director and to Central Information Commission, all these top-level appointments are becoming very controversial.”
Commenting on the matter, JD(U) MP Pavan Varma said, “Every question that is being raised is not about politicising an issue but about seeking a clarification for an answer.”
For his part, BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said the new army chief was picked up from a pool of five senior-most officers, who are all competent, and Lt Gen Rawat’s appointment should not be seen as a negative against others.
He said the Congress, by “politicising” the appointment of the army chief, was showing its “frustration” after it has been pushed to the “margins” of national politics following successive electoral defeats.
“If any party has flouted the democratic norms most, it is the Congress party. BJP has always adhered to democratic norms,” Sharma said.