Kolkata: Hours after the Election Commission of India (ECI) ordered the suspension of two senior IPS officers in West Bengal Sunday for the Nandigram incident that left Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee injured, the CM had written to the poll body seeking a suspension of the order, stating that her chief security officer was “in no way directly involved in the incident”.
In a two-page letter dated 14 March, CM Mamata had said there was a “pragmatic and impromptu response for ensuring better and more efficient security”, and added that she was well aware of the arrangements made and had given her consent too. ThePrint has accessed the letter that is addressed to Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora.
The Election Commission had suspended Vivek Sahay, director, Security, among others after it concluded that there was no pre-meditated attack on the CM in Nandigram on 10 March, and that her injuries were a result of a security lapse. It further ordered that charges be framed against Sahay for “grossly failing in discharge of his primary duty as Director, Security, to protect the Z+ protectee”.
Mamata sustained injuries to her left foot after a ruckus broke out during a rally after she filed her nomination papers at Nandigram on 10 March. She and her ruling Trinamool Congress have alleged the incident was a “conspiracy” to restrict her movement during the campaign for the upcoming assembly election.
In her letter to CEC Arora, Mamata urged the commissioner to cancel the order, and sought his personal intervention in the matter.
Mamata further noted that the poll body’s recent changes — including replacing the additional director general of police (law and order) and director general of police — would severely affect her security at this critical juncture and “create a vacuum”.
She also appealed to the CEC to “hear the grievances of all political parties and not be guided by any particular dispensation”.
Following the events of 10 March and what followed, the EC had asked the state’s chief secretary and the two election observers to submit a report on the matter, based on which it concluded there had been a security lapse.
This comes at a time the TMC and BJP are locked in a political battle for West Bengal where the BJP is looking to form its first government.
‘Transferring responsibilities at 11th hour makes no sense’
Advocating for her director of security, Mamata had said: “You are well aware that 10 March 2021 was the day of my nomination and as per prescribed norms of the ECI, not more than five vehicles are supposed to be accompanying the candidate. Due to this numerical constraint, one BP car was also included in the convoy and hence the Director security used the same to remain attached and be nearest to proximate and relevant security areas.”
“This was a pragmatic and impromptu response for ensuring better and more efficient security for me rather than weakening it. It would be ironic and wrong to treat this as an adverse factor qua his conduct. It was also always with my knowledge and with my consent,” she added.
She said the removal of three senior IPS officers in the structure will create a “vacuum” in her security arrangements, and added, “Transferring responsibilities to new and unfamiliar personnel at the 11th hour amidst hectic campaigning where vulnerabilities are especially heightened, just does not make sense.”
“I would believe and submit that it would be a grossly detrimental step for my personal security and sadly jeopardise it far more than strengthening it.”
Seeking the cancellation of the order, she added, “I would request your personal intervention to cancel this order so that my security is not further endangered, diluted or compromised.”
Former additional director general of police (Law and Order), Gyanwant Singh was Monday appointed the CM’s new security chief.
West Bengal, which will undergo an eight phase-assembly election, goes to polls from 27 March onwards.
(Edited by Manasa Mohan)