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Government gets Election Commission nod to appoint new army chief

LiveMint logoLiveMint 12-05-2014 PTI

New Delhi: The Election Commission (EC) on Monday gave a go-ahead to the defence ministry to initiate the process of appointing the next army chief, an issue that has got caught in a controversy because of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) opposition.

In a communication sent to the defence ministry on Monday morning, EC cited its 27 March order which makes it clear that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurements of defence forces are not covered under the model code of conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future, sources said.

The incumbent army chief General Bikram Singh will retire on 31 July and as per the tradition, the successor is to be appointed two months ahead of that.

EC, responding to a reference made by the defence ministry, said if the government wants, it can proceed with the process to appoint the next chief of army staff, the sources added.

The poll panel considered the matter in the light of its 27 March order and amid complaints from the BJP that government was rushing with the appointment of the next army chief.

In the wake of strong opposition by the BJP to the appointment of the next army chief, the government had last week referred the matter to EC saying any decision will be taken only after getting its nod.

The BJP has been opposing the appointment of the next army chief by the UPA government, arguing there was no hurry to do so and the matter should be left to the next government.

Army vice-chief Lt Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag is the front-runner for the top post which will fall vacant on 31 July.

Traditionally, the appointment of chief of services is made two months before the retirement of the incumbent.

However, in the case of Gen Bikram Singh, the appointment was done three months before the retirement of Gen V.K. Singh, who was engaged in a long-drawn battle with the government over his age issue.

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