Defence Ministry recommends Suhag as Army chief

Defence Ministry recommends Suhag as Army chief

The decks have been cleared for the appointment of the next Army chief, as the Defence Ministry has recommended Army Vice-Chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag's name for the top job following a green signal from the Election Commission (EC).

Within hours of receiving the go-ahead from the poll panel, the Defence Ministry forwarded the file on the appointment of the Army chief to the Appointment Committee of the Cabinet, consisting of the Prime Minister's Office and the Union Home Ministry, overlooking the objections raised by the principal opposition party, the BJP.

Responding to the Defence Ministry's query, the Election Commission said on Monday if the government wished, it could go ahead with the appointment of the Army Chief. “The MoD request has been disposed of as per the EC's March 27 order,” said Deputy Election Commissioner Vinod Zutshi.

In the March 27 order, the EC had made it clear that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurement for defence forces were not covered under the Model Code of Conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future.

In fact, Defence Minister A K Antony faced criticism from within the Congress for seeking the poll panel's nod in the first place, as the March 27 order was aptly clear. The minister, however, not only sought the EC's permission on the Army chief's selection but also on the Navy chief's appointment.

If selected, Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag will be the first Chief of the Army Staff from the Jat community, which sends a large number of soldiers and officers to the armed forces.

Commissioned in 4/5 Gorkha Rifles (Frontier Force) in 1974, Gen Suhag has four decades of distinguished military career, which include tactical and operational levels of command in counter-insurgency and proxy-war environment in the North-East and Jammu and Kashmir. He was also actively involved in secret commando operations in the sensitive area. The BJP, however, raised questions over the UPA government's decision to go ahead with the Army chief's appointment.

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