Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Next Army Chief
Just two days ahead of the 16th Lok Sabha poll results, the UPA government on Tuesday approved Army’s vice chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag (59) as the chief-designate when incumbent General Bikram Singh retires on July 31, despite stiff opposition from the BJP.
Lt Gen Suhag, a Gorkha Rifles officer, was given the green signal to be the next Army chief by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) chaired by PM Manmohan Singh, Defence Ministry sources said.
A formal announcement, as is the convention after such ACC decisions, however did not come till the time of this report going to press. The ACC approval was made known through unconventional means. The decision came a day after the Election Commission said the government may go ahead with the process of identifying the next Army chief, as armed forces appointments do not attract the Model Code of Conduct.
The UPA’s move brought back memories of the NDA government under Atal Bihari Vajpayee in 2004 approving Admiral Arun Prakash as the Navy chief and letting the Manmohan Singh government that took over after that year’s Lok Sabha polls to name him formally on June 1, two months ahead of the incumbent Navy chief Admiral Madhvendra Singh retiring on July 31.
In Suhag’s case, the BJP has been questioning the legitimacy of the government in appointing its favourites to key positions, though it is perceived that the 81.5-crore electorate has voted out the UPA. If a new government takes over after the result, it would be within its rights to reverse the ACC decision, though such a move is unlikely, as the BJP’s protests have been feeble in the last 24 hours. More: P6