Amita Ghose | Mar 6, 2019 | 6 min read
Did the commissioner join dharna or not? Centre miffed with exhibit of CM-Police camaraderie in Didi’s Bengal
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, the police officer at 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 state that has been playing out 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 petition of contempt of court against Kumar and also charging him with “tampering with material primary evidence” in the chit fund case. While Banerjee withdrew her dharna Tuesday evening after conferring with Andhra Pradesh CM Chandrababu Naidu who had come to visit her, 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.
As soon as news of this letter reached the CM at the dharna, 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 CP and I am CM, can he not come to me to consult some important administrative decisions?”.
But pictures and video footage, taken by the hundreds of journalists following this breaking political story from West Bengal, tell another story. On Sunday, Rajeev Kumar along with DGP Virendra, former DGP Surajit Purkayastha and ADG (Law & order), Kolkata Police, Anuj Sharma were sitting with Banerjee 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.
Timeline for Rajeev Kumar’s whereabouts over last two days
8.24 pm: First located outside his residence leaving for Metro Y Channel right after Mamata Banerjee
8.45 pm - 9.20 pm: Kumar is at the dharna site
9 am: Arrives at Metro Channel and meets Banerjee. Goes backstage to hold a meeting and leaves
12 noon: Attends an official Kolkata Police function which Banerjee also attends
5 pm: Kumar arrives again at dharna site, stays backstage for a while and leaves
9.16 am: Arrives at the dharna podium, goes backstage, holds a meeting with CM
2 pm: Kumar arrives to meet CM again
6 pm: Kumar once again is at the spot and leaves only after Banerjee announces the withdrawal of dharna
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Roopa Ganguly questions that if Kumar was there just to consult Mamata Banerjee on vital decisions then why six other chairs were placed around CM? “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?” says Ganguly.
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 Banerjee left for Metro Channel to commence the dharna, he was seen coming out of his home. “Bengal’s Didi was at CP’s house for more than an hour, planning actions against CBI. And right after she left, out comes Rajeev Kumar from his house. Are they making all of us fool? I am telling you she has withdrawn the dharna because she is to attend global business summit happening in Kolkata on 7th and 8th,” adds Ganguly.
Sunday, February 3, was a tricky day for Mamata Banerjee as most of her MPs, including Amit Mitra and Derek O’Brien, were in Delhi to attend Bengal’s budget session on the next day. Kolkata Mayor Firhad ‘Bobby’ Hakim was, meanwhile, constantly by the CM’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 over the phone about Rajeev 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 Mamata 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.”
Fellow journalists engaged in covering the police and administration as main beats have a different story to tell. According to a senior reporter who sought to remain anonymous, this is barely a breach by West Bengal’s standards. “If you remember those sessions on Rath Yatra in the High Court, we all have seen how these police officers were crucial part of state’s team. The Kolkata Police work under Mamata, and Rajeev Kumar in last eight years has only grown dearer to her. Many such officers have come and gone, the latest being Bharati Ghosh. Her’s was an excellent drama,” says the scribe.
“We all have seen he was sitting there for quite a while and it did look like dharna. Now, TMC and CM may play around with the situation and not accept it. Nothing can be done actually!”.
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