NEW DELHI: Following political slugfest over the selection of the Chief of Army Staff by superseding two officers, the government on Sunday clarified that “the most suitable among the panel of officer” was chosen by giving priority to experience in handling situations in critical sectors.
“The appointment of the Chief of Army Staff is based on selection from a panel of officers in the rank of Army Commanders. All officers in the panel are very competent officers and the most suitable among them is selected. It is emphasised that the government has the prerogative of selecting the most eligible from the panel,” sources in the government stated.
They also stated that “the government of the day takes the final decision choosing the most suitable officer based on various aspects of the security situation in the country and the future scenario”. “In the current security situation, counter terrorism and counter insurgency are key issues. Therefore, the background and operational experience of the officers on the panel were considered in depth while selecting the next COAS,” sources added.
The government maintained that Lt Gen Bipin Rawat fulfilled the criteria by virtue of his operational assignments as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in Jammu and Kashmir and his “outstanding track record, his familiarity with the functioning of the Army HQ and Ministry of Defence in his capacity as Vice Chief and his general dynamism”.
It is reiterated that the selection is based purely on merit, irrespective of the Corps to which the officer originally belonged, added the government sources. However, sources in the Army stated that there is possibility of two senior officers -- Eastern Army
Commander Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi and Southern Army Command chief Lt Gen P M Hariz -- who were superseded may put in their papers “if they fail to get judicial remedy, which they would seek”.
Meanwhile, the Congress sought explanation from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi the "compelling reasons" for the manner in which the next CoAS was selected. The Left also questioned the decision of the government. However, the BJP cautioned the Opposition parties not to politicise the decision, saying there is ample precedent in superseding seniors while choosing the CoAS.
Congress leader Manish Tewari claimed that the Modi government is"playing with institutions". “The government is doing politics in the Army. Is it whimsical cherry picking,” wondered Tewari. Former Rajya Sabha MP and JD(U) leader Pavan Varma said,
"Every question that is being raised is not about politicising an issue but about seeking a clarification for an answer."
However, the BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said the new Army chief was picked up from a pool of five senior-most officers, who are all competent, and Lt Gen Rawat's appointment should not be seen as a negative against others.