New Delhi, July 22 (IANS): In a reshuffle of top Army commanders, Eastern Command chief Lieutenant General Manoj Mukund Narvane has been appointed as the Vice Chief, setting off speculation that he might be on the way to become the next Army Chief after the retirement of General Bipin Rawat on December 31.
Narvane, a Sikh Light Infantry officer who will replace Devraj Anbu as Vice Chief, is the top contender to become chief on the basis of his seniority.
He will be replaced by Lt. Gen. Anil Chauhan who goes to Kolkata as the new Eastern Army commander.
Lt. Gen. R.P Singh will be the new Western Command chief while A.S. Kler will head Jaipur-based South Western Command and I.S. Ghuman will go to Lucknow as the chief of Central Command.
When the government initiates the process of selecting the next chief, its gaze will also be on Northern Army commander Ranbir Singh, a Dogra Regiment officer, who was Director General Military Operations (DGMO) during two surgical strikes carried out by the Army in Myanmar (2015) and across Line of Control (2016) in Modi government's first term.
There has been a practice to give the chief in line an exposure of the Army headquarters by appointing him the vice chief.
The Modi government, however, has in the past given a go-by to the seniority principle in selecting new chiefs.
General Bipin Rawat superseded two officers -- Lt. Gens. Praveen Bakshi and P.M. Hariz.
Recently, the government appointed Admiral Karambir Singh as the new Navy Chief when Andaman and Nicobar commander Vice Admiral Bimal Verma was the senior-most officer.