The UPA government on Tuesday approved Army’s vice chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag as the chief-designate when incumbent General Bikram Singh retires on July 31, despite stiff opposition from the BJP.
Former Army chief Gen V K Singh, who was BJP’s Ghaziabad candidate in this election, had earlier questioned the Manmohan Singh regime’s move to name the next Army chief when it was on its last leg.
On Tuesday, he continued to question it, but with a rider, saying the next government should be allowed to take the same decision, as there was time for doing so.
According to convention, the Army chief’s successor — usually the senior-most officer — is named two months prior to the retirement of the incumbent, though this practice has been given a go-by on occasions and successors named three months ahead too.
Suhag — he prefers being called just Dalbir Singh though — would become the first officer belonging to the Jat community to occupy the coveted post in the force’s history. A third generation Army officer, he would be the senior-most Lieutenant General and the top infantry man of the 11.3-lakh Army when he takes over as the chief two-and-a-half months from now.
Prior to becoming the Army Vice Chief, he was the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Commander. His promotion as Army commander in May 2012 triggered a controversy after then Army chief V K Singh placed him under a ban for reported “failure of command and control” in an operation carried out by an intelligence unit working directly under Suhag as the Dimapur-based 3 Corps commander in 2010.
Suhag’s promotion as Army commander was cleared by General Bikram Singh, 15 days after V K Singh retired as chief, by reversing the ban. This delayed promotion, after reserving the vacant Army commander’s post for 15 days in favour of Suhag, has now been challenged by Lt Gen Ravi Dastane in the Supreme Court, contending that he was eligi-ble to be Army commander but was denied the opportunity by General Bikram Sin-gh, who was in favour of Suhag, who was under a ban then.
With three top Generals of the Army retiring over the next three months, a major reshuffle in the force’s senior appointments is on the cards. Bikram Singh is slated to retire on July 31.
Ahead of that, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Sanjiv Chachra will retire on May 31 and Integrated Defence Staff Headquarters chief Lt Gen Anil Chait will retire on June 30.