"The matter is before the Election Commission. We want to strictly follow all the procedures before taking any final decision on the issue," said Defence Minister AK Antony when asked about the status of appointing the next Army chief.

The matter was sent to the Election Commission by the Defence Ministry earlier this week though the poll panel has already said that appointments, promotions, tenders and procurements are not covered under the Model Code of Conduct in the ongoing elections as well as any other election in the future.

On why has the Ministry sent the matter to the Election Commission despite its March 27 order, highly placed Defence Ministry sources said such matters are important and it was felt that nod of all authorities concerned should be taken before proceeding.

The BJP has been opposing appointment of the next Army Chief by the incumbent government, arguing that there was no hurry to do so and the matter should be left to the next government.

Army Vice-Chief Lt General Dalbir Singh Suhag is the frontrunner for appointment to the top post which will fall vacant on July 31 after the retirement of present Army Chief General Bikram Singh.

Traditionally, the appointment of Chief of Services has been made two months before the retirement of the incumbent. However, in the case of Gen Bikram Singh, the appointment was done three months before the retirement of General (retired) V K Singh, who was engaged in a long-drawn battle with the government over his age issue.

(Agencies)

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