Former army chief Shankar Roy Chowdhury denounced on Sunday a mounting row over the army chief’s appointment, asking parties not to politicise the “world-class” institution.
Speaking to HT, the 1971 war veteran endorsed Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat’s appointment as the next army chief, saying the government had the “final authority in the matter”.
The pick has been criticised by the Congress and other opposition parties, who have questioned the government’s move to abandon a three-decades-old tradition of elevating the senior-most officer as the army chief.
But Roy Chowdhury dismissed the debate, saying he had no patience with what political parties were saying.
“Their own reputation is of no good. I appeal to them not to politicise the last reputable institution of India which is world class.”
In promoting Rawat, the claims of Eastern Army commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, the senior-most general, and Southern Army commander Lt Gen PM Hariz, were ignored. The last time this had happened was in the early 1980s.
Roy Chowdhury, who was the last army chief from the Armoured Corps, called both Bakshi and Hariz “officers of exceedingly high caliber”.
The government has defended its decision, saying Rawat was the most suitable officer based on the security situation in the country.
“In the current security situation, counter terrorism and counter-insurgency are key issues. Therefore the background and operational experience of the officers on the panel were considered in depth. Lt Gen Bipin Rawat fulfills this criteria,” defence ministry sources said.
“His operational assignments as commanding officer of 19 Division in Jammu and Kashmir, his outstanding track record, his familiarity with the functioning of the army headquarters and ministry of defence in his capacity as vice-chief and his general dynamism also played a role in tipping the scales in his favour.”
Government sources added that Rawat was known for his balanced approach towards soldiering, compassion, and connect with civil society.
“He was found the best suited among the lieutenant generals to deal with emerging challenges.”