The government’s decision to appoint Lt General Bipin Rawat as the new Army chief has unleashed a fierce round of battle between the government and the opposition, over the nature of the decision to appoint a junior officer, superseding two higher positions. Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Command, and Lt Gen P M Harizwas were widely expected to take over as the next chief. However, the government surprised all by appointing Rawat to the top post.
Lt. Gen Rawat is currently the Vice Chief of Army Staff and would take over as Army Chief after Gen Dalbir Singh retires on December 31. Lt. Gen Rawat is an Infantry officer, having been commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles.
As per the Senior Defence Ministry sources, Lt. Gen Rawat’s appointment was made on the basis of “merit and suitability,” considering that he has had more that 10 years of experience in counter-insurgency operation and on the Line of Control. He also served on the China border.
Soon after the appointment of the new Army Chief, the Congress and the Left questioned the government on its motive behind the appointment of Lt. Gen Rawat superseding two positions. Citing the dynamics and hierarchy embedded in every institution, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said that “With all due respect to Gen Rawat’s professionalism and no personal animus towards anybody, there is a legitimate question that why has that supersession taken place.” “Did the government have anything against them? Was their professionalism in question? What was the reason and I guess the army being a public institution the country deserves those answers,” asked Tiwari.
CPI leader D. Raja also questioned the government on the controversial appointment, terming it as “very unfortunate.” “Appointments in the army have become controversial, the appointments in the judiciary are already controversial, the appointments of CVCs, CBI director and to Central Information Commission, all these top-level appointments are becoming very controversial,” he said adding further that there needs to be transparency.
The last time such an instance of supersession had taken place was in 1983 under the Indira Gandhi led government when Gen A S Vaidya became Army Chief side superseding Lt Gen S K Sinha. When reminded of the previous instance of supersession under the Congress government, Tiwari called it “complete nonsense”, adding that “Every situation has its own context and, therefore nothing can be extrapolated out of context in order to justify a supersession. So, therefore the government needs to answer this legitimate question as to why these senior army commanders were superseded,”
Lashing out at the opposition reaction to the appointment of Lt General Bipin Rawat, the BJP said that the Congress’ way of publicising appointments shows its frustrations after being pushed to the margins due to repeated electoral defeats. He said that the opposition parties should not reach premature conclusions regarding the appointments and wait for an appropriate time.
“They are all competent officers but under the prevailing security scenario, the government found Lt Gen Rawat as the most suitable candidate. We will urge to all political parties to not do politics over it,” BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said.