Writing on the wall, UPA wastes no time

Lt Gen Dalbir Suhag to be next Army boss even though there was a ‘disciplinary and vigilance’ ban on his appointment that was later removed by the incumbent chief

New Delhi :  The UPA Government on Tuesday wasted no time in clearing the appointment of Lt. Gen. Dalbir Singh Suhag as the next Army chief, with the election defeat staring in its face.

The decision was taken at the last working cabinet meeting of the Congress-led UPA government, which demits office on Saturday, a day after the Lok Sabha election results are announced.

The move came after the Election Commission gave the government the go-ahead for appointing the new chief. The BJP had opposed the appointment at the “fag end” of the government’s tenure and insisted that the matter be left to the new regime.

Traditionally, the appointment is made two months ahead of the retirement of the incumbent chief but the UPA government deviated from this practice when Bikram Singh was appointed in 2012. At that time, the appointment was made three months in advance and this time, too, the decision has been taken nearly two and a half months ahead.

Former Army Chief and BJP member Gen V K Singh has been in the forefront of the opposition to Suhag’s appointment. Singh, as Army Chief, had put a ‘Disciplinary and Vigilance’ ban on Suhag when he was the 3 Corps Commander two years back. The ban, which prohibits a promotion, was lifted immediately after incumbent Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh took over on May 31, 2012.

“What and whom are they trying to protect? What is the Defence Ministry and the UPA-II scared of? This harms the individual as people will question the UPA’s motive,” V K Singh said on Tuesday.

“The Defence Ministry was determined to push the file through the Appointments Committee of Cabinet despite the fact that given the ongoing Jorhat dacoity case — which has been a blot on the name of the Army — there can be no vigilance clearance. They got away with it two years ago when Gen Bikram Singh was appointed. So, they feel they can do the same thing again,” General V K Singh said.

59-year-old Lt Gen Suhag, a Gurkha officer, is the senior-most among the Lt Generals. He will have 30-month tenure  as the chief of the force when he takes over from Gen Bikram Singh who retires on July 31. He holds the distinction of commanding 8 Mountain Division in Kargil from October 2007 to December 2008. Suhag took over as the Eastern Army Commander on June 16, 2012, after a high-voltage drama involving him and former chief Gen VK Singh.

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