M A I N   N E W S

Govt moves to appoint next Army Chief as EC gives nod
BJP questions ‘political propriety’ of decision taken in last 90 hours
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 12
Hours after the Election Commission’s green signal, the Defence Ministry on Monday moved the file to appoint the next Army Chief. The BJP reacted sharply, saying the government should refrain from making the appointment with just three days remaining for the UPA government.

Army Vice-Chief Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag is the frontrunner to succeed incumbent Chief General Bikram Singh, who will retire on July 31. The MoD has moved the file to the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. If the appointment is made, it will be 79 days before Lt General Suhag actually takes over.

In the past, appointments of Service Chiefs have been made nearly three months in advance. Admiral DK Joshi, who recently quit, was appointed 87 days prior to his taking over, while his predecessor Admiral Nirmal Verma had an 85-period as Chief-designate. General Bikram Singh was appointed 89 days in advance. Previous Chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne was appointed 73 days in advance, while his predecessor Air Chief Marshal PV Naik had a similar period as Chief-designate when he was appointed on March 3, 2009.

The Election Commission, to which the Army Chief’s appointment had been referred in view of the model code of conduct, gave the go-ahead to initiate the process of appointing the next Army Chief this morning.

On expected lines, it cited its March 27 communication that said: “The model code of conduct is not applicable to any matter pertaining to the defence forces, be it recruitments, promotions in defence forces, all service matters pertaining to them...” The EC was itself surprised at to why the MoD had referred the matter to it despite clear instructions.

Following strong opposition by the BJP, the government had last week referred the matter to the Election Commission, saying any decision will be taken only after its nod.

The EC, responding to a reference made by the Defence Ministry, said if the government wants, it can proceed with the process to appoint the next Chief of Army Staff.

BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said the Manmohan Singh government has "only 90 hours" left and "I leave it to their judgement of political propriety whether or not to appoint the new Army Chief”.

PM-led panel to decide

* 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 is now for the ACC, headed by PM Manmohan Singh, to take a call on the recommendation

* The recommendation had only the name of 59-year-old Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag, who is the seniormost among the Lt Generals, sources said

BJP slams move

When the Manmohan Singh government is certainly going to demit office after its defeat in 89 to 90 hours, 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.—  Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP





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