Army Chief General V K Singh to retire tomorrow

New Delhi: General V K Singh, who took over the reins of the army 26 months ago with an image of an anti-corruption crusader, will retire as Army Chief tomorrow bringing to an end a controversial tenure that was marred by rows over his age and fissures among the military brass.

62-year-old Singh, who will hang up his boots after 42 years of service, will be succeeded by Eastern Army Commander Gen Bikram Singh, who will have a tenure of two years and three months.

Gen V K Singh, who took over as the Army Chief on March 31, 2010 with an image of honest, firm and upright officer, will leave behind a legacy of controversies starting from a row regarding his age.

Opinions were divided on the tenure among former top officials of armed forces with some hailing him and others criticising him.

Even as controversies clouded the last few months of his tenure as the head of the 1.3 million-strong force, he had laid the roadmap for transformation of the army into a lean and mean fighting unit.

He had also flagged concerns over the shortage of arms and ammunition and impressed on Government the urgent need for immediate steps to shore up purchases.

A native of Bapora village in Rohtak district of Haryana, Gen V K Singh`s tenure saw the unprecedented step of an Army Chief dragging the government to the court seeking a change of date of birth in official records that would have given him an extra ten months in service. .

Gen Singh had two dates of birth entered in the Army records — May 10, 1950 in the Military Secretary Branch and May 10, 1951 in the Adjutant General`s Branch.

The dispute over what should be treated as his actual date of birth led to a running battle between him and the government which finally ended after the Supreme Court refused to accept his contention that 1951 was his year of birth.

The Army Chief disappointed his supporters when he chose to continue in the post after the setback in the Supreme Court.

Before the dust over his age row could settle down, he made headlines when he alleged in an interview that he was offered Rs 14 crore bribe in 2010 by a retired Lt Gen for clearing a deal for procuring "sub-standard" Tatra trucks.

He had said that he had immediately informed Defence Minister A K Antony about the offer but there was no action, prompting government to issue repeated clarifications in Parliament. It created a stir in Parliament which also took up the issue for discussion.

General V K Singh was mired in another controversy when a letter written by him to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighting shortages and deficiencies in the army found its way to the media.

He also faced allegations of trying to change the line of succession when he issued a show cause notice for censure to 3 Corps Commander Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who may head the Army after General Bikram Singh, in a case related to failed intelligence operation in Assam last year.

Commenting on the 26-month tenure of Gen V K Singh, retired Lt Gen Shankar Prasad said, "History has not spared Jawahar Lal Nehru, it did not spare Winston Churchill either.

History will not spare even Gen V K Singh either."