Friday, March 1, 2013

Of Patronage and the Army Leadership

Major General Mrinal Suman

An email doing rounds on the internet reads – “Strange is the judicial system which rejects an Army Chief's school certificate but accepts a rapist-cum-murderer's school certificate!” The unknown author unfairly pins the whole blame on the judicial system for the injustice done to General VK Singh. The sordid drama was scripted and played out by the erstwhile army leadership.

The entire episode stinks of patronage and favouritism. It will go down in the history as the blackest mark against the army leadership for its sheer audacity and venality. It marks the lowest depths to which devious commanders can stoop to.

The stratagem was simple in plan and execution. The current system of promoting top leadership on the basis of their inter-se date of birth lends itself to manipulation by unscrupulous chiefs and thus perpetuates a regime of patronage. One such biased chief decided to ‘manage’ the system to plant his protégé firmly in the line of succession by nipping all likely challenges to his advancement in the bud. He found out that along with stalling promotion of other competent contenders, he needed to curtail the tenure of General VK Singh by a year to make way for his protégé.  

His obliging staff officers dug out an outdated, irrelevant and inapplicable document to give shape to the biased chief’s immoral plan. It was conveniently forgotten that the said document had already been superseded by the Army Headquarters. Even the school leaving certificate (the clinching evidence as per the Supreme Court) and the army hospital’s records were dumped. By this ignoble manipulation, General VK Singh’s tenure was cunningly reduced and the way cleared for the protégé.  

Three questions get raised. One, how could an officer who lacked the basic officer-like qualities of impartiality rise to be the chief? Was his prejudiced deportment not noticed at the time of his SSB interview and later on throughout his career? How could he hoodwink the whole system for decades?

Partiality is an anathema to military leadership. Fair and non-discriminatory conduct is an essential component of an officer’s morality. Any commander who acts in a discriminatory manner to grant favours to his protégé is guilty of breach of trust. Trust is the expectancy that the followers can rely on a leader’s impartial and just approach.

The biased chief forgot that he commanded the whole army and every soldier expected just and fair dispensation from him. They reposed faith in his impartiality. Unfortunately, he proved himself to be unworthy of their trust by hispartisan conduct. He was not only unfair to General VK Singh; he tweaked the whole line of succession, thereby depriving many more deserving commanders of their promotions.  

The second question is equally serious. A chief has a number of staff officers to advise him. It is their duty to caution the chief when he goes astray. In this case, all his staff officers abetted the transgression. Their spineless and cowardly conduct deserves severe condemnation. By ganging up with a felonious chief to manipulate the system, they revealed their true character and brought disgrace to the high ranks that they occupied. They have been hiding behind the façade of anonymity. They deserve to be named and shamed for being a part of the dirty-tricks department.

Thirdly and most gravely, the Indian army is saddled with a chief who knows that he does not deserve to be there. He is fully aware of the unholy conspiracy that facilitated his elevation. Allegations of deceit and unholy connivance to force Gen VK Singh to retire early would haunt him throughout his tenure. One wonders as to how he faces senior commanders whom he has cheated of their rightful ascension. Similarly, he must be finding it most inhibiting to exhort his subordinates to be upright and have faith in the fairness of the system.

Lieutenant General Nathu Singh declined to be the first chief of the Indian army stating that Lieutenant General Cariappa was senior to him. Compare the selflessness of General Nathu Singh with the conduct of the current chief who had no inhibitions in being the beneficiary of utter favouritism and Machiavellian scheming. He has earned the dubious distinction of being the first chief of the Indian army to occupy the top slot through devious means.

The biased chief can draw consolation from the fact that his shenanigans were successful and his protégé is well entrenched. However, the history will always recall him for his transgression and not any contribution to the nation. He will be long remembered as a chief who proved unworthy of the trust reposed by his subordinates’ and who let them down through his prejudiced conduct.

History is most unforgiving. It never forgets dark chapters and iniquitous characters. It comes back to haunt them for generations. Impact of indictment by history is always painful and no human can ever escape its impact, howsoever impervious he may pretend to be.
Finally, parochial predisposition is the worst and the most destructive type of virus. It has the potential to split the services on sectarian lines – a dreadful prospect indeed. In a country riven by caste, regional and religious dissentions, the Indian army is the solitary bastion of national unity and, most worrisomely, India’s only hope. *****  

The views expressed by the author are personal and not of this blog


  1. Army has gone to Dogs ........ or actually the Dogs have come to the Army ????????

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  5. i do not understand what maj gen suman is implying, i see a devious design to mislead our army by telling blatant lies, who is this biased chief, the author of this article should have courage to name him rather than make childish and unsubstantiated claims, it is saddening to see that they want to create controversy after controversy and weaken the Indian army, poor show general suman

  6. @Pragya Acharya


    We all have right to express our free thoughts and so have you. But could you pls tell me what makes Gen Suman's article WORTHLESS (as you put it). Let us talk of specifics pls and no sweeping statements. In fact Gen Suman has very well brought out the current shortcomings of the DoB based promotions amongst Gen officers (as Govt does not want to rock the boat by selecting Chief based on merit which may spark further controversies).

    I would much appreciate if you could pin point specific issues with the article which you think are not correct.



    The whole world knows about the biased chief (Gen JJS) and only you seem to be blissfully ignorant!

    - Harry

  7. It completely astonishes me how a person at such a senior level can have such PATHETIC ideas about the army without knowing the complete matter. In my opinion, this article is biased in itself and doesn't deserve the attention and name it deserves.It seems like the writer himself has some intentions behind writing this WORTHLESS article

  8. He is right in one context, the SSB interview candidates should be scanned with a fine comb or else we will have more thankless people, like the writer ,with ill- judgement getting recruited in the army

  9. It is quiet surprising to assume that an individual can hoodwink the entire system, taking recourse to judicial process is a pillar of strength of the country. There is nothing to be surprised of in a person taking recourse to judicial system it only strengthens ones faith in the judicial process. Conceiving a conspiracy theory involving many independent persons and agencies is quiet unlikely and far fetched by any means.

  10. How is it conceivable that one chief is a wizard while the other is a so incompetent that he could not even manipulate even his own date of birth while serving as the chief, too far fetched an imagination even by hollywood standards.

  11. It is not understood why this topic is being brought up now. there is no controversy and it is absurd to think that the chief is there because of some favour. It takes a large number of promotions to reach this level and you want us to believe that all were not correct. there is nothing like manipulated protege in this setup. Everyone rises due to merit and only merit.

  12. I am surprised to see how an ex army officer who was one of these people can use such language towards its present chief. we all have a right to express but using such obscene words clearly shows that you have lost touch with your army ethics. I humbly ask you maintain some element of sanity, and get your facts straight.
    the present army chief is a man of honor his achievements and education is way beyond the former army chief who you are blindly supporting.
    And ,I guess after all the age row drama you failed to observe the fact that the ambiguity lies in the age of the ex chief who told the media that he was tricked into doing it. How can a man at who achieved that position be tricked. I am sorry to say Lt. Gen Suman, I dont know who taught you such values to use your right to express in communicating wrong facts. Please Stop This Nonsense

  13. I guess Lt. Gen Suman should be bold enough to face some negative comments also.if he has the courage to call our present chief murderer and rapist. he can have the courage to face some criticism