THE APPOINTMENT of Lt General Bipin Rawat as the new Army chief has sparked a political firestorm with the Opposition asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spell out the “compelling reason” for two senior-most Lt Generals being superseded and the BJP asking parties to “not do politics” over a decision based on the “prevailing security scenario”. While the Congress described the appointment as “whimsical cherry picking”, the strongest comments against the decision came from the JD(U) with its general secretary KC Tyagi telling The Indian Express: “It reminds me of the past days of the Emergency during Indira Gandhi. It seems those old days are coming back.” Alleging that the Centre was following the “footprints of Indira Gandhi”, Tyagi said that such decisions indicate there is some sort of an “undeclared Emergency” in the country. “In 1983, General A S Vaidya was made the Army chief overlooking the seniority of Lt Gen S K Sinha. During her prime ministership, Indira Gandhi had appointed Justice A N Ray as Chief Justice superseding Justice Mohammed Hidayatullah. This government is doing similar things. Making or trying to make appointments in the judiciary and the Army superseding seniors could have serious ramifications,” said Tyagi.
The JD(U) leader said that such appointments were previously opposed by the BJP, which is “now doing the same thing” when in power. BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma accused the Opposition of politicising the move and condemned the Congress by saying that its comments exposed its “frustration” after being pushed to the “margins” of national politics following successive electoral defeats. “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,” said Sharma. “If any party has flouted democratic norms the most, it is the Congress party,” said Sharma. Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the appointment has raised serious questions for the government. “Lt General Rawat, who is being appointed the COAS, may perhaps have all the requisite credentials but the fact remains that in a hierarchy conscious organisation, where the principle of seniority is almost sacrosanct, the supersession of three senior officers, Lt General Praveen Bakshi, Lt General P M Hariz, and perhaps even Lt General B S Negi, raises extremely serious and critical questions of institutional integrity,” said Tewari. “We would like to ask the Prime Minister what was the compelling reason for the supersession? Why was the principle of seniority, which has held the field now for almost two decades, not respected by your government? Is it that these officers who have been superseded were unqualified by any manner? Or is it whimsical cherry picking by the NDA government? It is the responsibility of the government that it must tell the country as to what are circumstances that led to the supersession. These are public appointments,” he said.
“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,” said Tewari.
Asked about the appointment of Gen A S Vaidya in 1983, Tewari said, “To extrapolate and make it a precedent is completely and absolutely erroneous…that was one gentleman superseded…here three gentlemen were superseded,” he said. CPI leader D Raja said that various appointments by the government have often triggered controversies — be it in the Army, judiciary or those of the CVC, acting CBI director and to the Central Information Commission.Tewari, too, alleged that there was a pattern in the government’s appointments, from the CVC in 2015 to the appointment or non-appointment of a fulltime director of the Enforcement Directorate and the ad hoc appointment in the CBI’s case. “This government has scant regard for institutional integrity,” he claimed.