The Army on Sunday claimed its new chief Lt General Bipin Rawat was chosen “purely on merit” and for his “tremendous hands-on experience in combat areas”, after several officers and Opposition parties questioned his appointment over two seniors. “Due process was followed” in choosing Rawat, Army officials who did not want to be identified told The Indian Express.

Officials added that his experience in running combat operations was relevant to the country’s current security situation. He has had command over troops in both China and Jammu and Kashmir, has an “outstanding track record” and is familiar with the workings of the Army headquarters, an official told The Times of India.

Rawat’s appointment had been questioned by several senior Army officers as well as the Congress and the Janata Dal (United). The Congress had called the appointment “whimsical cherry picking”. JD(U) General Secretary KC Tyagi had compared the decision to the Emergency under Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. “It seems those old days are coming back”, Tyagi told The Indian Express.

However, the Bharatiya Janata Party defended the choice saying while there had been several competent contenders for the post – a reference to Lt General Praveen Bakshi and Lt General PM Hariz, who were superseded – the “most suitable” officer was chosen. “We will urge all political parties to not do politics over it,” said BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma.