A day after the new Chief of Naval Staff took charge, the BJP cautioned the UPA government against making high-level appointments like that of the Army Chief until the elections were over.
“I am not going into the specifics of any particular name but surely on the larger issue of naming the next General and reports about Lokpal appointment, we expect that when we are in the midst of elections, when the Model Code of Conduct is in force, at least till 16th of May, all these things must be avoided,” senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said on Friday.
Prasad was responding to a question on reports about the government having initiated the process to appoint Vice Army Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the successor to incumbent Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh, who retires on July 31. Last year, the appointment of the new Chief was announced three months in advance.
Prasad told The Indian Express later, “This position is only on a matter of principle keeping democratic propriety in mind. This is an election year. We are in the midst of elections where 232 seats have already gone to polls and results for all 543 seats will be out in 27 days. In this light, it will be appropriate to avoid any major appointment.”
Former Army Chief Gen V K Singh, the BJP candidate from Ghaziabad, also cautioned the government against “hurrying” on such appointments.
“There is still time for retirement of the present Army Chief and the UPA government should not hurry in making any appointment at this point of time,” V K Singh told PTI.
As Army Chief, Gen Singh had a turbulent working equation with Lt Gen Suhag. In 2012, weeks before demitting office, V K Singh sent a show cause notice to Dalbir Singh, accusing him of inaction in an intelligence unit related case, and virtually putting his appointment as the Eastern Army Commander on hold.
This would have put Dalbir Singh out of contention for the post of the Army Chief in 2014, and tilted the balance in favour of Lt Gen Ashok Singh as the frontrunner for the top post. Ashok Singh, incidentally, is closely related to V K Singh.
Even now, in case Dalbir Singh does not make it to the top post, Ashok Singh would be the top contender in terms of seniority.