Ever since the announcement by the Modi government of VCOAS Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the new army chief, GOC-in-C Southern Command, Lt Gen PM Hariz, had intimated his colleagues, friends and relatives that he’d bypass the precedent established by Lt Gen SK Sinha in 1983 (when he was superceded Gen Arun Vaidya) of not serving under his junior in service and serve out the rest of his term under Rawat. Praveen Bakshi meanwhile dithered with his decision to stay but ultimately decided against challenging Rawat’s elevation because, as reports suggest, he expects to be accommodated, ideally as the first Chief of Defence Staff, failing which as an ambassador somewhere or as governor. Hariz apparently has no such expectation but, presumably, will accept such post if offered.
The government may thus be incentivising military officers in the running who don’t make it to the top to not create trouble and get rewarded with high posts elsewhere in the system. This will legitimate, in effect, the actions of the government in rejecting the seniority principle and selecting an officer as Service chief for any reason whatsoever that it deems fit. It is hoped that hereafter “merit” (however defined) will count, not the accident of dates of birth or of entry into service. The next time, the government will, hopefully, be even more flexible and choose from among the entire lot of lieutenant generals. Once the notion of selection is entrenched, the military may end up having younger, intellectually more open, and physically more vigorous officers as COAS, CAS, and CNS.