Two senior-most officers superseded in surprise decision
In a surprise move, the government on Saturday announced that Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat will be the next Chief of Army Staff.
The appointment goes against the long-held tradition of appointing the senior-most eligible officer to the post.
By this criterion, Lt. Gen. Praveen Bakshi, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Command, should have been appointed.
Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa, presently the Vice-Chief of the Indian Air Force (IAF), has been appointed the next Air Chief.
“The next Army Chief will be Lt. Gen. Bipin Rawat with effect from the afternoon of December 31,” a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.
Army Chief General Dalbir Singh and Air Force head Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha will both retire on December 31.
Lt. Gen. Bakshi is widely respected as a highly competent and professional officer. The last time the senior-most eligible officer was not appointed was in 1983 when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi choose to appoint Lt. Gen. A.S. Vaidya as the Chief, contrary to expectations that Lt. Gen. S.K. Sinha would take over. Lt. Gen. Sinha, then Vice-Chief, chose to resign in June 1983 though he was due to retire in early 1984.
With the appointment of Lt. Gen. Rawat, two senior-most officers have been superseded, which is unprecedented in the military. Lt. Gen. P.M. Hariz, Southern Army Commander, is second in seniority after Lt. Gen. Bakshi.
With the unprecedented delay in the announcements of appointments to the top posts, military circles have been rife with speculation of a change in the line of succession.
It is customary to announce the names two to three months in advance.
Lt. Gen. Rawat is currently the Vice-Chief of the Army. He was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978.