Giving room for another major controversy, the Narendra Modi government has announced Lt General Bipin Rawat would be the new Army Chief, superseding two senior-most Lt Generals, Praveen Bakshi and P M Hariz. The only other time the seniormost officer has not been appointed Chief was in 1983 by Indira Gandhi, when Lt Gen S K Sinha was overlooked for the post in favour of Gen A S Vaidya. This move was vehemently opposed by the then BJP and later Sinha was appointed as Governor by Vajapayee government.
Lt Gen Rawat, who is currently Vice Chief of Army Staff, will take over as the 26th Chief after Gen Dalbir Singh retires on December 31. Lt Gen Rawat is an Infantry officer, having been commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles. Lt Gen Bakshi, who heads the Kolkata-headquartered Eastern Command, is from the Armoured Corps. The Armoured Corps and Infantry are both fighting arms. Gen Shankar Roy Chowdhury was the last Armoured Corps officer to be Army Chief (1994-97). Lt Gen Hariz, who is from the Mechanised Infantry, heads the Pune-headquartered Southern Command.
However, senior Defence Ministry sources claims that “merit and suitability have been taken into account while selecting the new Army Chief”. “Lt Gen Rawat”, they said, “had more than 10 years of experience in counter-insurgency operations and on the Line of Control, besides serving on the China border. He has the requisite experience considering the current situation”.