New army chief: When UPA govt didn’t follow seniority in appointment

New army chief: When UPA govt didn’t follow seniority in appointment

The Narendra Modi government named Lieutenant General Bipin Rawat as India’s next army chief on Saturday sparking a controversy as it abandoned a three-decades-old tradition of elevating senior-most officers as military chiefs.

The choice of Rawat was immediately criticised by the Congress party.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, some bureaucrats, both serving and retired, however, pointed out that while supersession in civilian wings of the government is quite common, overlooking seniority in top-level appointments in the armed forces is extremely rare and against the convention.

The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government had smoothly managed the military front but landed in a storm over civilian appointments.


As a controversy erupted over Rawat’s appointment, here’s a look at how key appointments led to controversies during the UPA tenure.

1. Shiv Shankar Menon, the blue-eyed diplomat of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, then foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee and many others in the UPA, superseded over 12 seniors for the post of the foreign secretary in 2006.

While the government stuck to its decision, there was a major resentment in the foreign establishment and two Indian ambassadors (in France and Dhaka) resigned for being overlooked for the top job. A secretary in the foreign office also quit.

2. Kiran Bedi, the feisty police officer, was all set to become Delhi Police commissioner after KK Paul but the UPA government decided the other way. Bedi, India’s first woman Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, was sent as chief of the bureau of police research and development organisation.

YS Dadwal, two batches junior to Bedi in service, was handpicked by the Centre to head the national capital’s police force in July 2007. Bedi, a 1972 batch IPS officer, eventually joined the BJP and is currently the Lieutenant Governor of Puducherry.

3. In 2013, the UPA government appointed Syed Asif Ibrahim, a 1977 batch IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, as the director of the Intelligence Bureau. The government overlooked the claims of Yashovardhan Azad, senior by a batch to Ibrahim, for the post.

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