The appointment of Rakesh Maria as Mumbai’s police commissioner took political overtones Monday with a Congress MP, the Republican Party of India and the Bhartiya Janata Party, accusing the state government of ignoring a Dalit IPS officer Vijay Kamble for the top position.
Home Minister R R Patil, however, strongly defended the decision stating Maria’s appointment was based on merit and devoid of any political considerations.
Kamble was one of the three names shortlisted for Mumbai CP by the Police Establishment Board, but he has been named Thane CP. Another senior IPS officer, Ahmed Javed, who also hoped to be made the Mumbai CP, has been promoted as Director General (Home Guards). Both abstained from work Monday, upset at being overlooked for the coveted post.
When contacted, Maharashtra Director General of Police Sanjeev Dayal said, “Both Kamble and Ahmed are reportedly on leave. I know both are not happy with the decision.”
In a major embarrassment to the state government, Congress’s Rajya Sabha MP BL Mungekar raked up the Dalit issue and said Kamble should not have been overlooked. “…there was intense pressure from the NCP to bring in Mr Rakesh Maria. I am not casting aspersions on Maria’s capability, but in this entire process, it is unfortunate that a great officer and someone who is a role model for his community has lost out,” he said.
RPI’s Ramdas Athavale, who has called his followers to protest the decision, said, “By not making Kamble the Mumbai CP, the Congress and NCP have shown the in-built prejudice against Dalits.”
Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council Vinod Tawde went a step further and alleged that the NCP had threatened to withdraw support to the Democratic Front government if Maria was not made the Mumbai CP. “There is no doubt Maria is an efficient police officer. But the government has clearly established its anti-Dalit face by ignoring Kamble,” Tawde said.
Home minister Patil, however, refuted these allegations, stating various factors including experience in tackling challenges posed by terrorism, experience in crime branch and available tenure were considered. “It was felt Maria would be most suitable at the moment to take on the current challenges,” he said. “I ardently appeal to all the police officers to take up their new assignments as their services are highly valued,” he added.
Taking exception to charges levelled against the NCP, Patil said, “I am not indicating that those who could not make it to the CP post were less able or less meritorious. Every officer in khakhi is highly revered and there is no scope for any discrimination on political lines or caste basis.”
Stating that the Opposition was trying to create a wedge in the police force by raking up the caste issue, he said, “An IPS officer is assigned the role purely on work. Those trying to raise the Dalit card are doing a major disservice to the police force, which has always risen above any caste or creed.”