The announcement that Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat will take over as the next Army Chief has kicked up a storm. That political parties have jumped into the fray seeking explanations from the Centre on why two senior officers, Lieutenant General Pravin Bakshi and Lieutenant General PM Hariz, were superseded.
This is something the army as an institution is deeply wary of. Congress has called it "unnecessary bloodletting at the top".
Criticising the move, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari sought to know the compelling reasons which dictated the decision to supersede two senior officers, something which was last done during the tenure of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who overrode the seniority of Lt Gen SK Sinha and appointed General AS Vaidya in 1983.
Tiwari, reportedly says that the government is playing with institutions, doing politics with the army and wanted to know if it was a case of "whimsical cherry picking".
"Why the principle of seniority which has held the field for two decades now not being respected by the government. Is it that these officers, who were superseded, were unqualified in any manner? Or is it whimsical cherry picking which has been done by the BJP-led NDA government?" he asked.
"Why does the army have to go through unnecessary bloodletting at the top? If it has been done, then reasons need to be put out in the public domain," Tiwari demanded.
Why has Seniority not been respected in Aptt.of Army Chief?Why have Lt Gen PRAVIN Bakshi & Lt Gen Mohamed Ali Hariz been superseded Mr PM?— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 17, 2016
2/2 Why has third senior most officerLt Gen Bipin Rawat with due respects to his professionalism superseded other two in a herarichal force?— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 17, 2016
3/3 correctionGen Rawat is not third but fourth senior most. Even Lt Gen BS Negi Army commander Central Command is senior to him ? Why Mr PM— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 17, 2016
He in another tweet had also said that he hopes that the appointment of the Army Chief is not a precursor to suppression in other institutions like the SC even as he demanded to know why the government has not announced the name of the next Chief Justice even though Justice TS Thakur had sent his recommendation two weeks ago.
4/4 and I only hope& pray it is untrue that this supersession in the Army is not a precursor to suppressions in other institutions Like SC??— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 17, 2016
Why is government delaying the notification regarding the appointment of the new CJI? Outgoing CJI made the recommendation 02 weeks back?— Manish Tewari (@ManishTewari) December 18, 2016
D Raja pointed to the government's record in several other high-level appointments which has raked up controversies.
"Appointments in the army have become controversial, the appointments in the judiciary are already controversial, the appointments of CVC, CBI director and to Central Information Commission, all these top-level appointments are becoming very controversial," Raja said.
BJP, meanwhile, has hit back, blaming the Congress of exactly the same they are accusing them of - politicising the issue.
Claiming that the new chief has been picked up from a pool of five senior-most officers, as is the norm in such appointment, BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma said, "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 all political parties to not do politics over it."
Sharma also said that Congress is just airing its frustrations after being relegated to the margins post consecutive defeats in the polls.
Lt Gen Rawat's appointment as the next A
rmyChief has also raised speculations if the government would also make the announcement of who would be the first Chief of Defence Staff or the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee and if Lt Gen Bakshi could be promoted to the rank of a general and be given the newly created assignment, or not.
However, the move is said to be stuck on the contentious issue of the 'job description' of this new post.
Trouble in hand
Meanwhile, experts said that the decision to elevate Rawat was taken keeping in mind the threats the country is facing right now. In a scenario where hybrid and asymmetric warfare has become the norm, and a full-blown conventional warfare looks unlikely, especially with Pakistan, Rawat is said to have the right experience.
Lt Gen Rawat reportedly has five decorations in operational command. As Lt Gen Ata Hasnain, points out, Rawat has commanded a company at Uri, a battalion of the 11th Gorkhas in the North East, the Rashtriya Rifles Sector at Sopore, the famous Dagger Division at Baramulla, among other important assignments.
With hostilities with Pakistan at an all-time high, the Army has been the target of several terror strikes. According to a report, this year alone, the Army has lost more than 60 personnel, more than double the number they lost in 2015 and 2014.
Both Lt Gen Hariz and Lt Gen Bakshi are said to be lacking the adequate operational experience.
There are speculations that both may resign after the announcement of Lt Gen Rawat's name. Lt Gen Sinha had resigned after he was superseded by Major General Vaidya.
Edited by Jhinuk Sen