Facing attack from opposition parties, government justified the appointment of Lt Gen Bipin Rawat as the army chief superseding two commanders, insisting that his operational experience and "general dynamism" tipped the scales in the officer's favour.
The defence ministry sources also asserted that selection of army chief is the sole prerogative of the government and it is based purely on merit, irrespective of the Corps to which the officer originally belonged.
The "outstanding" track record of Lt Gen Rawat, an Infantry officer, as Commanding Officer of 19 Division in J&K and his familiarity with the functioning of the Army Headquarters and MoD were cited by the ministry as the reasons for his selection for the top position.
The ministry sources said all officers in the panel of officers in the rank of army commanders are competent and the most suitable is selected "However, it must be emphasised that the prerogative of selecting the most eligible from the panel is that of the government," sources said.
However, mounting an attack on the Centre over the issue, Congress and the Left asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spell out the "compelling reasons" for it even as BJP hit back saying they should not politicise an issue related to defence forces.
Congress leader Manish Tewari slammed the government for "playing with institutions" and doing politics in the army even as he wondered if it was "whimsical cherry picking".
CPI leader D Raja also questioned the government's move and said appointments whether in the army, judiciary or those of CVC, acting CBI director and to Central Information Commission have become controversial.
BJP condemned Congress for its attack on the government over the army chief's appointment, saying there should be no politics on defence forces and asserted that Lt Gen Rawat has been elevated keeping in mind the current security scenario.
Lashing out at the opposition party, BJP said Congress politicising the appointment of the army chief shows its "frustration" after it has been pushed to the "margins" of national politics following successive electoral defeats.
BJP National Secretary Shrikant Sharma said the opposition party should not reach a premature conclusion and wait for an appropriate time.
"If any party has flouted the democratic norms most, it is the Congress party. BJP has always adhered to democratic norms," he said. Congress and the Left have questioned the appointment of the new army chief by superseding two officers, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to spell out the "compelling reasons", and wondered if it was "whimsical cherry picking".
(With inputs from PTI)