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Friday, October 30, 2020

Two generals fight a turf war in Army’s South Western Command

The present spat between the Generals in Jaipur and the Army Headquarters move of getting it inquired by the Vice Chief of Army Staff has not gone down well with a section of veterans with many of them taking to social media expressing their disgust at the inquiry and demanded that the junior General should have been shifted out.

Written by Man Aman Singh Chhina | Chandigarh | September 23, 2020 11:07:22 am
Proposal to Army: Cut ceremonies, canteen for better use of resourcesProposals include cutting down on ceremonial practices like brass bands. (Representational)

An unsavoury stand-off has developed between two Lt Generals in the Army’s South Western Command Headquarters in Jaipur which has led to both officers complaining against each other to the Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

The Chief of Staff, South Western Command, Lt Gen K K Repswal, is learnt to have made a complaint in writing against his immediate superior, Lt Gen Alok Kler, who is the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the command. The complaint was made several weeks back.
A complaint by the Army Commander, South Western Command, Lt Gen Kler has also been made to the COAS regarding the conduct of the Chief of Staff Lt Gen Repswal.

The Army Headquarters has now deputed the Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen SK Saini, to inquire into the entire affair.

Lt Gen Repswal is an officer of the Corps of Engineers and took over as the Chief of Staff of the command in December 2019. He was earlier posted as Chief of Staff of the Jodhpur-based Corps and prior to that he was Chief Engineer at Headquarters Northern Command.

The General had gone to Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) in July 2019 after the Special Selection Board for promotion of officers to the rank of Lt General did not declare his result and kept it pending. He filed a petition stating that he had reasons to believe that he had been approved for promotion, but that his result was held back for unknown causes. His petition succeeded at AFT and he later picked up the rank of Lt General.

Both the Generals come from military families of distinction. Lt Gen Repswal has a younger brother, Lt Gen B K Repswal, who belongs to Army Service Corps (ASC) and is posted as Commandant ASC Centre and School, Bangalore. Their father, Lt Colonel J S Repswal had served in the Punjab regiment in 1965 and 1971 wars and was later transferred to the ASC.

Lt Gen Alok Kler’s father, Lt Gen Gurdev Singh Kler (retd), was an armoured corps officer of 18 Cavalry who settled down in Chandigarh after retirement. Alok’s elder brother, Air Marshal J S Kler, was a distinguished helicopter pilot and retired as the Commandant of National Defence Academy. Lt Gen Kler was commissioned in the 68 Armoured Regiment and has served as GOC of Ambala based Strike Corps.

In the past, the Army has taken a dim view of the tiffs that occur between the senior officer and his subordinate, whatever the causes and allegations may have been by either party. In 2016, the then GOC Delhi Area, Lt Gen R Ravindran, was abruptly posted out as Chief of Staff, Central Command, after he reportedly got into a tiff with his immediate boss, Lt Gen K J Singh, who was the then GOC-in-C Western Command.

In 2008, the then GOC-in-C, Northern Command, Lt Gen H S Panag, was shifted as the Central Army Commander after he launched a series of investigations into irregularities of procurements made during the tenure of the then Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor as the Northern Army Commander.

The present spat between the Generals in Jaipur and the Army Headquarters move of getting it inquired by the Vice Chief of Army Staff has not gone down well with a section of veterans with many of them taking to social media expressing their disgust at the inquiry and demanded that the junior General should have been shifted out.

Maj Gen B S Dhanoa (retd) tweeted: “Irrespective of differences, the Army Commander is a Commander-in-Chief and the Chief of Staff has to lump it or move out. This is preposterous that another senior officer is looking into representations made to the COAS. You don’t run militaries by committee.”

Speaking to The Indian Express, former Western Commander Lt General Tej Sapru said the Army should hold a proper inquiry into the matter. “It all depends upon what is the actual point of contention. If it is personal impropriety by an Army Commander then a complaint may hold good. But if it is procedures and methods of running the Command then a Chief of Staff has no business objecting to it and he has to follow orders. There are certain powers which are at Army Commander’s discretion and if these are exercised by proper procedure then there should be no problem,” he said.

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