Lt Gen Manoj Mukund Naravane, slated to take over as GoC-in-C of Eastern Command soon, is seen as the next chief of the 1.3 million strong Indian Army after General Bipin Rawat retires in December this year.
He will be the senior most Lieutenant General in the Army once Rawat retires.
If the BJP government adheres to the seniority principle in appointing the chief this time, Lieutenant General Navarane is in with a strong chance.
But the BJP government brushed aside the seniority principle when they appointed Gen Rawat as chief, ahead of two other Lieutenant Generals who were his seniors.
That included Lieutenant General Praveen Bakshi, the former Eastern Army Commander.
Lieutenant General Navarane currently heads the Simla-based Army Training Command (ARTRAC).
Naravane’s posting to ARTRAC last year surprised many, because an officer is expected to lead an operational command before being appointed as the Army chief.
His junior, Lt Gen Ranbir Singh, who was the Director General of Military Operations during the surgical strikes in 2016, was posted as the Northern Army Commander in May this year.
But Naravane’s appointment as the Eastern Army Commander will ensure that he acquires the required operational experience for being considered for the top job when Rawat retires.
Lt Gen Abhay Krishna, the officer whom Naravane is replacing as Eastern Army Commander, has been transferred to Lucknow to take charge of the Central Command.
The command is responsible for the Line of Actual Control with China in Uttarakhand, which has witnessed incursions in the past.
Krishna has been shifted as an Army commander a few times since the past year – from the South Western Command to the Eastern Command and now the Central Command.
Military sources find this frequent shuffling unusual, because an Army commander needs adequate time to fully lead his command.
Navarane has been closely involved with evaluating studies initiated by General Rawat to cut down ‘unnecessary flab’ in the Army and rationalize its teeth-to-tail ratio to make it a lean and effective war fighting machine endowed with modern technology.