Kolkata: Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's ugly spat with the Centre only exacerbated on Tuesday afternoon when the Ministry of Home Affairs asked the West Bengal government to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Rajeev Kumar, Kolkata police commissioner who is caught in the eye of the storm.
CBI's move to arrive at Commissioner of Police Kumar’s home on Sunday evening finally brought to head the high-level bureau-political spat between the Centre and the Trinamool Congress government, which has been playing out on national stage, over the past few days. Banerjee seized the opportunity to indulge in some pre-poll ‘dharna politics’ even as the CBI moved to Supreme Court — twice, on Monday and Tuesday — with a contempt of court petition against Kumar and also charging him with “tampering with material primary evidence” in the chit fund case. While Mamata withdrew her dharna on Tuesday after Supreme Court told Kumar to cooperate with the CBI, the war has clearly not ended.
In a letter addressed to the West Bengal chief secretary Malay Kumar De, the MHA cited indisciplined behaviour and violation of All India Services (Conduct) Rules, 1968/AIS (D&A) Rules, 1969 by the officer. The letter dated 5 February, 2019 mentioned that as per information received by the MHA, "Rajeev Kumar sat on a dharna along with some police officers with the Chief Minister, West Bengal, at Metro Channel in Kolkata, which is prima facie in contravention of the extant provisions of AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968/AIS (Discipline & Appeal) Rules, 1969." The MHA communication cited the extant provisions of the Rules 3(1), 5(1) and 7 of the AIS (Conduct) Rules, 1968, which were reportedly flouted by Rajeev Kumar.
Kumar faces the music alone
The MHA letter recognises other police officers’ presence at the dharna along with Kumar, but disciplinary action has been ordered against the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata, alone. “That, you all know why,” says TMC member Monojit Mondal, also a professor at Jadavpur University, when asked why other police officers were ignored while Kumar faced the music.
A senior police official with the Kolkata Police, on condition of anonymity, said: "First of all, Kumar was speaking to her about law and order situation. (Chief minister) Mamata was then waiting for the stage to get ready and begin her dharna. And if they want to talk about breach of service rule, then yes, each and every police officer present there trying to put things in order should be charged similarly."
Mondal said he doesn’t understand “why so much buzz about Rajeev Kumar sitting there for few minutes?”.
“She is the chief minister of the state and Rajeev’s duty is to look after her security (in Kolkata). If there was a sudden law and order situation, who would have taken responsibility? Also if you have observed earlier, it is the style of Mamata Banerjee’s functioning. She has held number of impromptu meetings with the police. This, too, was one such spontaneous moment," he argued.
As soon as the news of this letter reached Mamata, who was still at the dharna site, she refuted the fact that Kumar had joined her in the protest. Addressing the media from the podium, she said, “Rajeev never joined me in the dharna. What kind of propaganda is this? He is the Commissioner of Police and I am the Chief Minister, can he not come to me to consult some important administrative decisions?"
However, journalists and eye-witnesses from the dharna site tell a different story. On Sunday, Kumar along with DGP Virendra, former DGP Surajit Purkayastha and ADG (Law & order), Kolkata Police, Anuj Sharma were sitting with Mamata at the Metro Y Channel in Kolkata, right after her announcement at the police commissioner’s house that she was going to fast unto death in protest of “CBI audacity”. He continued to drop in at the dharna site on various occasions for the next two days, right up until its end on Tuesday evening.
"We saw he (Kumar) was sitting there (Metro Channel) for quite a while and it did look like dharna. Now, Trinamool Congress and the chief minister may play around with the situation and not accept it," said a reporter on the condition of anonymity. The reporter also pointed out that this could barely be called a breach by Bengal standards.
Here is a detailed break-up of Kumar's whereabouts over the last two days
8.24 pm: First located outside his residence leaving for Metro Y Channel
8.45 pm - 9.20 pm: Kumar was at the dharna site
9 am: Arrives at Metro Channel and meets Mamata. Goes backstage to hold a meeting and leaves
12 noon: Attends an official Kolkata Police function which Mamata also attended
5 pm: Kumar arrives again at dharna site, stays backstage for a while and leaves
9.16 am: Arrives at the dharna site, goes backstage, holds a meeting with the chief minister
2 pm: Kumar arrives to meet Mamata again
6 pm: Kumar once again is at the spot and leaves only after Mamata announces the withdrawal of dharna
'Who is Didi trying to fool'
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly said that if Kumar was there just to consult Mamata on vital decisions then why six other chairs were placed around the chief minister. “My sources were there, you all journalists have seen it, you know it better. He was there for good 20-30 minutes and that too sitting quietly. Who is Mamata ji trying to fool?”
Another point that the opposition is dissecting is while CBI was at Kumar’s home on Sunday, the Kolkata Police maintained that he was not there. But right after Mamata left for the Metro Channel to commence the dharna, he was seen coming out of his home. “Bengal’s Didi was at Commissioner of Police's house for more than an hour, planning actions against CBI. And right after she left, out comes Rajeev Kumar from his house. Do they take all of us to be fools? I am telling you she has withdrawn the dharna because she is to attend global business summit happening in Kolkata on 7 and 8," added Ganguly.
Sunday (3 February) was a tricky day for Mamata as most of her MPs, including Amit Mitra and Derek O’Brien, were in Delhi to attend the Budget Session. Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim was, meanwhile, constantly by Mamata's side. In order to show support, district leaders of TMC rushed to Kolkata and TMC’s face in Birbhum, Anubrata Mondal, was seen joining his leader’s dharna on Sunday night. While Mondal is famous for making controversial political comments, he maintained a “no comments” gesture while at the dharna.
When asked about Kumar’s breach of discipline, Mondal says: “BJP has now nothing to do, they feel helpless and scared. Now that democracy has won they are coming up with new ideas to harass the officer. As Didi said he is one of the world’s best cops, I do believe the same. I was there, Rajeev Kumar never got onto the dais, he came and sat on the chair for a while, you can’t call it a dharna."
The author is a Kolkata-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com, a pan-India network of grassroots reporters
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Feb 06, 2019 16:50:01 IST