Debunking BJP’s demand to put the process of appointment of a new Army Chief on hold until elections are over, Minister of State for Defence Jitendra Singh Monday said the government should not come under “pressure of cheap politics” and must go ahead with the appointment. The statement comes even as controversy over the appointment of Admiral R K Dhowan as the Navy Chief seems to have subsided with the government accepting the retirement plea of superceded officer Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha.
Taking a dig at Gen V K Singh for objecting to it, saying the former Army Chief should not comment on this issue “given his past”, the Minister of State for Defence said politics should not be mixed with the armed forces.
“It is very sad that the BJP is bringing politics in the armed forces. There is a due process of appointment that starts about three months before the incumbent retires and there is no political interference in it. It is not the discretionary power of the government. The senior most person will succeed and there are no two views about it. The government must go ahead with the appointment and not come under pressure of cheap politics,” Jitendra Singh told The Indian Express.
Rejecting Gen V K Singh’s suggestion to the government to not hurry into the appointment, the Union minister said, “His own appointment was through this process only. Looking into his past and the events that have taken place, I don’t think he (the former Army Chief) should comment on this issue.”
Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, reiterated his party’s opposition to the government’s move, saying that the BJP’s objection is on the issue of “democratic propriety”. “The incumbent Army Chief is retiring in July end. What is the urgency? Nearly half of the total LS seats are polled and there are 27 days to go for results. There is no urgency,” he said.
The current Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Dalbir Singh is the top contender for the position, considering that he is the senior most officer and has had all necessary clearances. In fact, the technical process for the appointment is in the final stages with the file reaching the ministry on Saturday. A political decision on going ahead with Dalbir Singh’s appointment to the top post however is still to be taken.
Gen V K Singh, who has joined the BJP and is contesting from Ghaziabad, has been cautioning that the government should not “hurry” on making such appointments. In case Lt Gen Dalbir Singh is overlooked for the post of Army Chief, Southern Army Commander Lt Gen Ashok Singh would be the frontrunner for the top post. Ashok Singh is incidentally closely related to V K Singh.
Meanwhile, the Navy’s succession plan charted out by the government seems to be sailing smoothly with Sinha, who was the Western Navy Commander, making a quiet exit. The officer had requested the government to grant him premature retirement if it could not grant him ‘justice’. Vice Admiral A R Karve, his second in command in Mumbai, has been made the officiating Western Naval Commander till the time the government moves ahead and promotes a new officer to the slot.