Eastern Army commander Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi may have pledged “full support” to army chief General Bipin Rawat but there hardly seems any possibility for cooperation in the coming weeks.
Bakshi, who was overlooked for the army chief’s post despite being the seniormost, has gone on leave till January 26. It is rare for army commanders to go on long leave, a senior officer said.
South Block sources confirmed to HT that Bakshi had sought and was granted one-month leave.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Tuesday if seniority was the only criterion then the computer could have selected a service chief on the basis of date of birth and there was no need to follow rigourous procedure spanning months, analyse Intelligence Bureau reports of candidates or seek the approval of the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
“There would be no requirement of any Raksha Mantri, there would no requirement of Cabinet Committee on Appointment because then it is a computer job. Date of birth decides who becomes General,” he said.
The Kolkata-based Eastern Command is responsible for guarding the line of actual control, India’s undefined border with China. Bakshi went on leave on December 27, raising a few eyebrows as his junior Rawat replaced General Dalbir Singh as the army chief four days later.
An Eastern Command spokesperson said Bakshi was on leave for “personal reasons”.
The duration of Bakshi’s leave was not known till now. On the day Rawat took over as chief, Bakshi extended his “best wishes and full support” to him, ending speculation that he may resign.
January is one of the most important months in the army calendar as several important ceremonial functions take place in the month, ranging from Army Day (January 15) celebrations to investiture ceremonies to Republic Day-related functions.
On December 31, Bakshi told officers over video conference that he would continue to serve with “full professional sincerity.” In promoting Rawat, the government ignored the seniority principle and the claims of Lieutenant Generals Bakshi and PM Hariz to the top job.
Playing down the controversial supersession, Parrikar said all candidates considered for the army chief’s post were equally competent and due procedure was followed in making the appointment.
He told reporters that the procedure laid down for selecting service chiefs nowhere said seniority was the norm.
Bakshi and Hariz were commissioned in December 1977 and June 1978, while Rawat joined the army in December 1978. But Rawat’s experience in Kashmir and the Northeast tipped the scales in his favour. After taking over as army chief, Rawat said he had worked with both officers, had respect for them and everyone would cooperate to strengthen the army.