The blast that left 16 people injured in Bangalore Wednesday caught the police at a moment of disarray: officers are being shifted around or are jostling for postings ahead of the May 5 assembly election,resulting in lack of cohesion and leadership.
The disarray is the making of a weak BJP government and a group of insecure officers who have over the past few months been engaged in a no-holds-barred battle for key positions in Bangalore Police,including of the commissioner,using the impending election as cover. The fighting has seen much political clout being thrown around and led to several legal battles as well as questions over the viability of the Police Establishment Board that was set up under the order of the Supreme Court to post officers.
The earliest of the battles were over the posts of joint commissioner,crime east,and additional commissioner,law and order. In the first,DIG S Murugan ousted his senior,IG P Dayanand,in February,prompting Pranab Mohanty to demand that his position of joint commissioner,crime west,be upgraded to match his rank of IG.
This battle was still on when the government decided to bring the chief of Karnatakas anti-Maoist force Alok Kumar,an IGP,back to Bangalore as additional commissioner for law and order,the number two post in the police,thus creating more bad blood in its top ranks. The incumbent T Suneel Kumar,who had been in the job for over two years,did not make way for Alok and instead got a stay from the Central Administrative Tribunal on his transfer. The stay,however,was overturned by CAT a day before the election code came into force in March.
Soon after Alok took over,the government shifted police chief Jyoti Prakash Mirji. Though his removal wasnt unexpected,his replacement Raghavendra Auradkar,a former home secretary and the junior most additional director general in Karnataka Police,came as a surprise even though he was posted under the direction of the election commission. The outgoing commissioner publicly criticised his removal.
Auradkars appointment further irked T Suneel and he moved the high court. On March 26,the court pulled up the government for bypassing the police board in appointments to top posts and directed that Police Establishment Board consider the cases of all these persons in accordance with law and make appropriate recommendation.
The board has since decided a hierarchy of ranks for filling up a few top posts,but it has not been followed so far. If and when it is,some of the officers who would be affected are expected to move court again.
In the meantime,the election commission also recommended transfer of policemen who had been in Bangalore for over three years,thus worsening the disarray in the run up to the blast as well as its aftermath. The polices anti-terrorist cell,in fact,has been headless since the joint commissioner,crime east,who oversaw it,was transferred last year.
Then there is the Internal Security Department,which was set up in 2009 to investigate cases of terrorism. Not granted powers of investigation,it has ended up a white elephant,though it cost Rs 100 crore,is housed in a massive office and has hundreds of vehicles and personnel. Now,it only assists Bangalore Police in investigation.
The police,meanwhile,said the government might hand over the probe into the blast to an external agency. We will take a decision in a day or two on who will investigate this blast. Whoever is investigating,be it the NIA or anybody else,Bangalore Police will assist them, Karnataka Police chief Lalrokhuma Pachau said.