India names new army chief before poll result: report

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's Congress-led government named a new army chief Tuesday, days before official election results were due in the world's largest democracy where exit polls show the Hindu nationalists headed for victory, a report said.

Lieutenant General Dalbir Singh Suhag, 59, will take over from chief of army staff General Bikram Singh after he retires on July 31, the Press Trust of India national news agency quoted sources as saying.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has questioned the Congress' rushed move to 'fill high-profile vacancies' and demanded that the next government be allowed to name the next chief.

Traditionally, the government names the next chief two months before the current one's tenure ends.

Voter exit polls suggest that the BJP, led by its right-wing leader Narendra Modi, and its allies have trounced the scandal-tainted Congress party, which has been in power for a decade.

Most exit polls indicated the BJP would seal a narrow majority. But Indian exit polls have a notorious track record - there were prediction errors in the last two general elections of 2004 and 2009.

V.K. Singh, a former army chief who now is a senior BJP leader, criticised the appointment two days before the official election results were due.

The move could create "uncalled for controversy" and "harm the individual as people will question" the Congress-led coalition's motive, PTI quoted Singh as saying.

Suhag, currently vice chief, was disciplined in 2012 by Singh for a failed intelligence operation in the revolt-racked northeastern state of Assam.

Singh charged Suhag with "abdicating responsibility" in "a most unprofessional and lackadaisical manner" in what was a botched operation by an intelligence and surveillance unit under him.

The disciplinary action was revoked after Singh's successor, General Bikram Singh, took charge.

General Suhag has experience in counter-insurgency operations in the Himalayan region of Indian Kashmir where rebels have been fighting Indian rule for over two decades.