New Delhi, April 11: The army chief-designate, Lt Gen. Bikram Singh, has quietly taken over the responsibility of all senior-level promotions and postings in army headquarters as incumbent Gen. V.K. Singh approaches the final leg of his tenure.
The announcement of Lt Gen. Bikram Singh as the chief-designate nearly three months before he is to take over on the afternoon of May 31 has effectively undercut Gen. V.K. Singh’s authority after the bruising battle between the latter and the government.
Lt Gen. Bikram Singh is the Eastern Army commander headquartered in Fort William, Calcutta. He has been spending two to three days every week in New Delhi since he was named Gen. V.K. Singh’s successor. He is being briefed by various departments of army headquarters and the ministry of defence.
This week, the cabinet committee on appointments is slated to take a decision on the promotion and postings of 16 major generals recommended for the rank of lieutenant generals. The recommendations were made in consultation with Lt Gen. Bikram Singh.
Lt Gen. Bikram Singh is also likely to recommend an officer for the post of military secretary. The military secretary is one of six principal staff officers to the army chief.
Promotions, postings and tenures are determined by the military secretary branch, which is one of the most secretive in the army headquarters. It also makes the officer one of the most powerful in the force.
Lt Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain, the 15 corps commander widely credited with bringing down violence in the Kashmir Valley, is tipped to take over as the military secretary. Hasnain was recommended for the post of director general of military operations (DGMO) — also a principal staff officer — by Gen. V.K. Singh. But that was not accepted by the defence ministry.
Lt Gen. Hasnain may take over from the incumbent, Lt Gen. Sanjiv Chhachra, who also retires along with the army chief on May 31.
Gen. V.K. Singh is yet to begin his farewell visits to all the commands and formations he may choose — a practice adopted by chiefs for the last two months of their tenures. His “transformation study” — a set of proposals to restructure the army from the headquarters downwards — has practically been shelved. The defence ministry has assigned it to a three-year “roll-on plan”, bureaucrat-speak for “cold storage” and to be examined after three years if required.
Lt Gen. Bikram Singh will also recommend the officer who will be sent on deputation to the home ministry to take over as the director-general, Assam Rifles. Gen. V.K. Singh had recommended Lt Gen. Chhachra for the post but that was rejected by the home and defence ministries.
Unlike Gen. V.K. Singh — who moved to New Delhi only after taking over as the chief — Lt Gen. Bikram Singh has served long terms in New Delhi and is perceived to be better networked in the capital. He was the army headquarters’ spokesperson at the time of the 1999 Kargil war. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government was in power then.