Friday, 21 January, 2022
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Shaken by poll result, Mamata Banerjee goes on bizarre IPS, IAS posting-transfer spree

Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee transferred 5 IPS officers in & out as commissioner of Bidhannagar in 5 days, giving an insight into her post-election state of mind.

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Kolkata: Mamata Banerjee has found a new way to tackle the problem of the BJP’s expanding footprint in West Bengal — in five days, she has transferred five Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in and out as commissioners of the Bidhannagar Police.

Long before the BJP stormed her Bengal bastion in the Lok Sabha elections, Banerjee carved out the Bidhannagar police commissionerate from the sprawling North 24 Parganas district at Kolkata’s doorstep in 2012.

Bidhannagar is an important police commissionerate adjoining Kolkata, as several five-star hotels, the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport, Salt Lake Stadium, the Sector 5-Rajarhat IT hub and the upscale Salt Lake and Rajarhat residential colonies fall under its jurisdiction.


Also read: How BJP managed its stunning capture of West Bengal


Transfer merry-go-round

In April, the Election Commission removed Gyanwant Singh from the post of Bidhannagar police commissioner, as he is considered close to Banerjee. According to the Home Ministry, he is one of the five IPS officers who sat on a dharna with the CM in February.

The EC replaced Singh with Natarajan Ramesh Babu, who was in the post until 25 May. As soon as the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) was lifted on 26 May, Singh was reinstated. But the very next day, he was appointed Additional Director General (Law and Order), another key post, and Nishat Pervez was sent to Bidhannagar. On 28 May, Pervez was removed and Bharat Lal Meena appointed in his place. But before he could take charge, he made way for Lakshmi Narayan Meena on 30 May.

This merry-go-round of transfers has caused disbelief since it has no parallels.

Ramesh had not even removed Singh’s nameplate while the elections were on, as he apparently knew he would be shunted out. Singh’s nameplate, according to reports, is still intact, as L.N. Meena is unsure of how long he will last.

During the elections, Banerjee repeatedly claimed that the BJP was pumping ill-begotten cash into Bengal from five star hotels in Bidhannagar, but EC-appointed officials were doing nothing to stop it.

Bidhannagar not alone

Bidhannagar is not the only commissionerate to witness these quick transfers. In Barrackpore, just north of Kolkata, Sunil Chowdhury was removed from the post of police commissioner after being blamed for Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi’s defeat at the hands of the BJP’s Arjun Singh. His successor, Debendra Prakash Singh, however, lasted for merely a day, making way for Tanmay Roychowdhury in 24 hours.

Similarly, the postings of three more IPS officers — Arnab Ghosh, Annappa E. and Joy Biswas — were revoked within two days, raising eyebrows.

Besides IPS officers, IAS officers too are being posted and re-posted after the MCC was lifted on 26 May. Since then, district magistrates of Darjeeling, Kalimpong, East Burdwan, Hooghly, Murshidabad, North 24-Parganas, South 24-Parganas and Howrah have been changed.

The new DMs in districts where the BJP upstaged the Trinamool Congress are expected to repair the electoral breach through solid work to win over disenchanted sections. Uma Shankar, the DM of Bankura, who was transferred by the EC on the BJP’s complaint, was predictably reinstated.

Officials tight-lipped

Serving or retired officials ThePrint approached for comments on the unprecedented spate of transfer orders and their reversal were tight-lipped. Prasun Mukherjee, former Kolkata police commissioner, said “it’s not usual but it’s the government prerogative”.

The Telegraph quoted an unnamed IPS officer as saying: “We have never seen anything like this before. God knows what could be the logic of reversing a posting within a day or two. Such a thing can happen for one or two posts. But how can this happen for so many posts?”


Also read: PM Narendra Modi inducts 5 retired IFS, IAS officers in his new govt


Why is Mamata doing this?

Banerjee directly handles the police department, as she has retained the home portfolio since becoming the chief minister in 2011. So, the bizarre IPS posting-and-transfer circus on the outskirts of Kolkata is seen as a dead giveaway of the fear and foreboding that has gripped her amid the churning after the BJP blitzkrieg in what was an impregnable Trinamool Congress fortress.

Unsure of the loyalties of IPS and IAS officers, the jittery and embattled CM is shuffling and reshuffling police commissioners, superintendents of police and district magistrates like a pack of cards to be on top in a tricky situation, political observers say.

Besides the CM’s own insecurities, the frequent changes in Bidhannagar, Barrackpore and elsewhere in Bengal are attributed to pressure and counter-pressure exerted on the home department by influential local Trinamool Congress leaders who have the CM’s ear.

The only official not reinstated

The only top official removed by the EC whom Banerjee has refused to bring back is home secretary Atri Bhattacharya, a 1989-batch IAS officer considered close to her. He was given the key post superseding several officers in 2017, but the EC removed him “for having interfered in the process of conducting elections”.

On 28 May, Bhattacharya was suddenly replaced by Alapan Bandopadhyay, taking Nabanna, the state’s administrative headquarters, by surprise. Now, Bandopadhyay is the front-runner to succeed Moloy De as chief secretary in September this year.

ThePrint has learnt that the CM didn’t take kindly to official correspondence surfacing on Bhattacharya’s wife Mousumi Sengupta’s Facebook page. However, Bhattacharya, who is also active on Facebook as ‘J Alfred Prufrock’, called these reports “rubbish”.

The correspondence in question included Bhattacharya’s note dated 13 May to chief electoral officer Ariz Aftab, which the EC found objectionable, and the EC’s directive dated 15 May to the chief secretary removing Bhattacharya.

Pep talk at Nabanna

To counter the BJP’s lengthening shadow over Bengal, Banerjee has summoned all SPs and DMs to Nabanna for a pep talk on 7 June.

When the late CPI(M) stalwart and former CM Jyoti Basu used to address IAS and IPS officers in Writer’s Building, the seat of the state government before Nabanna, he would simply tell them to treat the Constitution and the Indian Penal Code as their Gita, Quran and Bible, and perform their duty fearlessly.

This Friday, it will be interesting to watch an embattled Banerjee address her top officials, even as she faces an unprecedented challenge from the Hindu Right — a force which the Communists had decimated, but which has come back to haunt her.


Also read: 2019 Lok Sabha polls couldn’t have been fairer as far as Election Commission is concerned


 

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2 COMMENTS

  1. It’s either Psychiatric problem or case of Substance Abuse. She must find a reliable supplier of product that is of consistent quality. Spurious drugs result in erratic behavior and may sometimes result in Overdose.

  2. For the way she has been conducting herself since the announcement of elections,it is clear she need psychiatric treatment . Now the only way to convince this lady the necessity is an intervention by judiciary taking note of her actions. With her dream of making to the PM chair shattered,she might go berserk

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