'Bias' Kumar gets the boot

EC names replacement on its own

By Meghdeep Bhattacharyya and Monalisa Chaudhuri in Calcutta
  • Published 13.04.16

Calcutta, April 12: The Election Commission today removed Rajeev Kumar, the Calcutta police commissioner handpicked by Mamata Banerjee, in the middle of the Assembly elections following complaints of bias from most Opposition parties.

The poll panel has named Soumen Mitra, now additional director-general of CID, as the new police commissioner but without seeking a panel of names from the state government, an IAS officer said.

As many as 38 officials, including three IAS and five IPS officers, have been removed by the Election Commission so far in this poll season. Among those weeded out, Kumar enjoyed the highest profile.

Kumar's name had got entangled in a botched police "sting" that was seen as a state-sponsored response to the Narada scandal.

BJP national president Amit Shah had accused Kumar of plotting the "sting" in which two cops had met former state unit chief Rahul Sinha at the party office in Calcutta and allegedly told him that they would give money for help to smuggle cattle into Bangladesh.

The Congress and the CPM had joined the chorus against Kumar.

The chief minister had chosen Kumar to succeed Surajit Kar Purkayastha as the Calcutta police chief earlier this year. Kumar will now be the additional director-general of the anti-corruption branch, replacing Ramphal Pawar who will succeed Mitra in the CID.

"The commission has ordered the removal of Kumar. He is to be replaced by Mitra. The order arrived shortly after 5.30pm," said an official at Nabanna, the state secretariat.

The order for Kumar's exit came 13 days after suggestions emerged on March 30 that his removal was imminent. The following day, the Vivekananda Road flyover collapsed in Calcutta.

The Nabanna official added: "He was going to be removed on March 31 or April 1. The flyover collapse on March 31 bought him some time as the commission did not want to get in the way of relief and rescue operations."

The official said the Election Commission had decided on Kumar's removal weeks ago. "Nirvachan Sadan has been watching his every move, given the allegations that the Saradha probe had stalled under his watch as the Bidhannagar commissioner earlier," the official said.

An official in the state government said that unlike the practice of choosing an officer from a panel of three names, this time none was sought by Nirvachan Sadan, the Election Commission headquarters. "They did not seek any panel of names for the post of Calcutta police commissioner. The new commissioner has been posted without any consultation," said the IAS officer.

Mitra, the new police commissioner, is a 1988-batch IPS officer who has served in Calcutta police as deputy commissioner, detective department; deputy commissioner, north; and special commissioner of police. He has technically superseded 11 IPS officers of additional director-general rank to become the commissioner.

According to an officer who has handled electioneering in the past, Nirvachan Sadan usually picks the most senior officer as a replacement in case of a removal. He said Mitra's choice was an exception. "It could be because of his image that he refuses to toe the line set by the ruling party," he said.

Earlier this year, Mitra, who is a batch senior to Kumar, was removed from Calcutta police, where he was serving as a special commissioner, to accommodate Kumar as the top cop in Lalbazar.

"Whatever the Election Commission of India wants to do, let it. Whoever it wants to remove, let it. However much the Opposition complains baselessly, the people will stand by us. Trinamul is coming to power again," Trinamul national vice-president Mukul Roy said this evening.

BJP national secretary and Bengal co-minder Sidharth Nath Singh, who visited Nirvachan Sadan yesterday to press for Kumar's removal, said: "We are hopeful that this will send out the right message to all officials who are working on behalf of Trinamul."

Senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Pradip Bhattacharya hoped Kumar's removal would enable free and fair elections in and around Calcutta.

CPM politburo member Mohammad Salim said the removal had brought more "shame" to the ruling establishment. "This shows how the commission does not even believe in the neutrality of the commissioner of Calcutta police, which says enough about what the people have to deal with at the lower levels of administration," Salim said.

Force multiplier

Bengal, which has nearly 600 companies of central forces at the moment, is likely to get another 390-odd companies from Assam, where Assembly polls ended yesterday, according to Nabanna sources. With that, the peak deployment of central forces is likely to be more than 750 companies, the highest in the history of elections in the state.