Antony mollifies Army chief with personal touch
January 9, 2012 – Defence Minister A.K. Antony, generally perceived as “soft”, may have taken an uncharacteristically tough stand in the row over Army chief General V.K. Singh’s age, but he also went out of his way to mollify him. On Wednesday, Antony put his arm around Singh’s shoulders and asked him to travel in the same elevator, while leaving for a meeting. Singh was leaving in
another elevator. It was after this one-on-one meeting that Singh publicly proclaimed that there was no rift between him and the government, just a perceptual difference.
The controversy over whether Singh was born in 1950 or 1951 has been simmering since 2006 and was laid to rest last week, after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) replied to Singh’s statutory complaint on the matter, rejecting his 1951 claim. While the Indian Army’s Military Secretary (MS) branch maintains that Singh was born on 10 May 1950, the Adjutant General (AG) branch says that he was born on 10 May 1951. If Singh’s date of birth was accepted as 10 May 1951, he would have got another ten months in office.
The minister’s reply came a month late, after consultations. But Antony thereby honoured his statement in Parliament made last year that the Gen. Singh would be demitting office in May 2012.
The MoD has already asked for the top three names among senior officers next in the line of succession, to choose Singh’s successor from among them. There were reports that the Army chief might go to court.
Former JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, retired Major General Nilendra Kumar, toldThe Sunday Guardian, “If the Chief had sought legal intervention, it would’ve been an unprecedented situation, and would’ve set a precedence for junior officers who are unhappy. Since it’s a personal matter, it would’ve been improper to use government Resources. And the judicial resolution of the matter was highly unlikely to come by for the chief during his tenure in office, which is May 2012. Had he won after retiring from office, he would’ve got financial benefits. If the government decided to remove him from office before his retirement, then he would’ve lost his financial benefits.”
WINNERS AND LOSERS
If Singh was to leave before May 2012, then the senior most officer would have been Lieutenant General Shankar Ghosh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Chandimandir based Western Army Command. But Lt. Gen. Ghosh became a low medical category last year, when the medical board at the Command hospital declared that he had osteo-arthritis in his right hip. With this 30% disability the officer is entitled an extra 50% of his pension, life-long, if he retires as Army commander. But if he is to be made Army chief, his medical condition would be taken into consideration.
Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command, will be the senior most officer if the present chief retires on 31 May 2012. He is most likely to become chief, as the government has decided that Singh’s date of birth is 10 May 1950. Lt. Gen. Bikram Singh’s daughter-in-law is a Pakistani national, and is said to be residing in Dubai.
Lt. Gen. K.T. Parnaik, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Udhampur-based Northern Army Command, the most operationally sensitive command of the Army, will be the senior most officer of the Indian Army if Singh retires in May 2013 (date of birth 10 May 1951).
Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt. Gen. S.K. Singh, who is junior to Lt. Gen. Ghosh, Ahluwalia and Bikram Singh, does not yet qualify for the top job.