Notwithstanding the opposition from BJP, the Defence Ministry today went ahead with the process of appointing the next army chief—Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag.
The Defence Ministry sent its recommendation to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) shortly after receiving the go-ahead from the Election Commission to which the matter had been referred in view of the Model Code of Conduct, it was learnt. The sources said the recommendation had only the name of 59-year-old Lt Gen Suhag, who is the seniormost among the Lt Generals. 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, sources said.
Army chief Gen Bikram Singh will retire on July 31. Traditionally, the government announces the name of services chiefs about two-three months before they retire.
Lt Gen Suhag, commissioned in the Gorkha Rifles in 1974, has a long experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the North East. He also took part in the IPKF operation in Sri Lanka.
In January, Lt Gen Suhag took over as the vice chief of the army, considered a precursor to his likely elevation to the top post.
In May 2012, the then chief Gen VK Singh imposed a discipline and vigilance promotion ban on Lt Gen Suhag. He was charged with "abdicating responsibility" in handling an intelligence and surveillance unit under his command in the Dimapur based 3 Corps for what was dubbed a "botched-up intelligence operation". Read more
Gen Bikram Singh, however, revoked the ban within a week of taking over as army chief. Subsequently, the defence ministry endorsed the army chief's decision and elevated Lt Gen Suhag as the Eastern Army commander in June 2012.