Calcutta, March 18: A day after promising to step up vigil in Bengal, the Election Commission ordered transfer of three senior IPS officers against whom Opposition parties had alleged bias.
State chief electoral officer Basudeb Banerjee asked Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s government to immediately transfer deputy inspector-general, Malda range, Gaurav Dutta, North 24-Parganas superintendent of police Basudeb Bag and Nadia superintendent Benoy Chakraborty.
“I was informed about the Election Commission’s decision and I told the government about it,” Banerjee said, declining to comment on the specific reasons behind the unprecedented decision. Never in the Left Front rule have such senior officers faced penalty following an Election Commission order.
Yesterday, Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, BJP’s state president Tathagata Roy and leaders of other Opposition parties met chief election commissioner T.S. Krishnamurthy and requested him to look into what they called a unionised and biased police force and polling personnel. They had named the three officers for playing partisan roles while overseeing elections in the past.
Soon after his meeting with the Opposition parties, the chief election commissioner told a news conference that he had received complaints against “biased” police officers. He also promised free and fair polling on May 10, the day the Lok Sabha elections would be held in Bengal.
State election department sources said the shift order decision was taken after verifying inputs from several sources.
Senior government officials, including the home secretary, were not available for comment.
All three districts where Dutta, Bag and Chakraborty were posted had sent Opposition members to the Lok Sabha last time.
The Opposition said this was the first time the poll panel paid heed to complaints against the “partisan role” of a section of police officers.
“The decision proves that our complaints were all along true. If the commission looks into all complaints with sincerity, polls in Bengal will be smoother,” said Congress’ Somen Mitra.
Trinamul chief whip in the Assembly Sobhandeb Chattopadhyay, too, said if the commission probes complaints against other police officers, people of Bengal will vote without fear after many years. “We are happy that the chief election commissioner listened with intent to each and every political party and has made attempts to address their complaints. This is a moral victory for us,” he said.
Trinamul leaders alleged that Dutta and Bag had played major roles in getting “innocent party workers” of Keshpur, Garbeta, Pingla in Midnapore and the adjoining areas of Bankura arrested in the late 1990s. Bloody clashes between CPM and Trinamul supporters had become a feature of the region at the time.
Dutta was then the superintendent of undivided Midnapore and Bag the police chief of Bankura.