Ignoring stiff opposition from BJP, the Congress-led UPA has recommended vice chief of army staff Lt General Dalbir Singh's name for the next army chief.
According to top defence ministry officials, the Election Commission after dilly-dallying for almost two weeks on Monday gave its go-ahead for the appointment. Shortly after clearance from the poll panel, the defence ministry sent its recommendation to the appointments committee of cabinet (ACC) headed by prime minister Manmohan Singh.
“We have recommended Lt General Dalbit Singh Suhag’s name for the army chief to the appointments committee of cabinet. It is up to the prime minister to take a final decision on the issue,” a highly placed defence ministry official to dna.
dna had first reported that the outgoing UPA government will announce the name of the next army chief before demitting office. But the process got delayed after the main opposition party BJP and former army chief General VK Singh accused the government for taking decision in ‘undue haste’.
Army chief Gen Bikram Singh will retire on July 31, and as per the tradition, the government announces the name of services chiefs between two to three months before the tenure of the incumbent comes to an end.
On Monday morning, the Election Commission dispatched a communication to the defence ministry giving ‘no-objection’ to the appointment. Sources claimed that the EC cited its March 27 order which makes it clear that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurements of defence forces are not covered under the model code of conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future.
Lt Gen Suhag, commissioned in the Gorkha Rifles in 1974, has a long experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and North East and had participated in IPKF operation in Sri Lanka.
In January, Lt Gen Suhag took over as the vice chief of army staff, a move considered as a precursor to his likely elevation to the top post.
The then army chief Gen VK Singh had imposed a discipline and vigilance promotion ban on Lt Gen Suhag in May 2012. Gen Singh placed him under the ban on charges of “abdicating responsibility” in handling an intelligence and surveillance unit under his command in Dimapur-based 3 Corps for what was dubbed as a “botched-up intelligence operation.
However, the ban was revoked by Gen Bikram Singh within a week of his taking over as the army chief. Subsequently, the ministry of defence had also endorsed the army chief’s decision and elevated Lt Gen Suhag as eastern army commander in June 2012.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad questioned the Manmohan Singh government's "rush" to make appointments with just 90 hours left for the next regime to take over.
"Why this rush to recruit in departments of finance and commerce. We condemn this. This is against democratic propriety and political probity," he said.
When asked about the EC giving its sanction to appoint the new army chief, he said the UPA was going to demit office. "I leave it to their judgement of political propriety whether to appoint the new army chief or not when the vacancy is occurring in the end of July.”