Army chief-designate Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat has reached out to the two generals superseded by the government to elevate him to the top position, amid the ongoing political quarrel over the seniority principle being set aside.
Sources in Kolkata-based Eastern Command and Pune-based Southern Command confirmed to HT that Rawat spoke on the phone with Lieutenant Generals Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz seeking their involvement in planning the future of the force.
The conversations took place on Sunday, a day after Rawat was designated as the next army chief. The exact details of the conversations are not known, but the sources said Rawat sought the support of the two generals ahead of slipping into the new role.
Whether Rawat’s gesture will work or not is anybody’s guess.
In promoting Rawat, the claims of Bakshi and Hariz to the top job were ignored. South Block sources said the generals were equally competent but Rawat’s experience in Kashmir and the Northeast tipped the scales in his favour.
The superseded generals could choose to serve, or resign or move court. In most cases of supersession, officers have chosen to resign rather than serve under a junior.
But the suspense surrounding the government’s plan to create the post of chief of defence staff or permanent chairman of the chiefs of staff committee could influence the decisions of Bakshi and Hariz, who were commissioned in December 1977 and June 1978 respectively. Rawat was commissioned into 5/11 Gorkha Rifles in December 1978.
Rawat was first thrust into the spotlight in 2008 when the Indian brigade led by him saved a key Congolese province from being overrun by rebels.
Lieutenant General Babacar Gaye, then the Force Commander of the UN mission in the Congo, wrote in the commendation awarded to Rawat that it was due to his “leadership, courage and experience” that North Kivu’s capital Goma never fell, the country’s eastern region was stabilised and the main rebel group had to come to the negotiating table.
India is among the few countries where the appointment of military chiefs was seniority based till now. Military leaders are deep-selected for promotion to top jobs in most countries, including the US, with merit being the deciding factor.