The political furore caused by the NDA government’s naming Lt Gen. Bipin Rawat—currently vice-chief of army staff—the 27th army chief is not unexpected. Rawat superseded two officers senior to him—and in the army, as in most other arms of the state, seniority is a favoured metric.
But the opposition’s accusations—“playing with institutions” and the “sacrosanct” nature of the principle of seniority, for instance—are misguided. It is the civilian executive’s prerogative to oversee the military and appoint the chiefs of its various arms as per its judgement. The Narendra Modi government has duly exercised this prerogative with the reasoning behind Rawat’s appointment made public.
There is already politicization of promotions at lower levels. That is a necessary and broader debate, but pretending that it is the army chief’s appointment that will somehow politicize the army is disingenuous.
And the principle of seniority has led to some unfortunate appointments in the past. If the BJP is moving to downgrade its importance, so much the better.