DAYS BEFORE the Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission of India Friday ordered the transfer of four senior police officers in West Bengal, including the commissioners of Kolkata and Bidhannagar, and relieved them of all election-related duties. A notification issued by the Commission read, “I am directed to state that the Commission has taken a review of the poll preparedness of the state of West Bengal. The Commission has decided to make following transfer/posting with immediate effect in respect of West Bengal.”
As per the notification signed by ECI secretary Rakesh Kumar, Kolkata Police Commissioner Anuj Sharma has been replaced by Dr Rajesh Kumar, who is ADG, Pollution Control Board, and Biddhannagar Police Commissioner Gyanwant Singh has been replaced by Natarajan Ramesh Babu, ADG and IG (Operations). The SPs of Birbhum and Diamond Harbour were also transferred.
“Two superintendents of police and two police commissioners in West Bengal have been transferred with immediate effect. Avannu Ravindranath DC (Airport) has been posted as SP Birbhum and DC (Kolkata Armed Police) 3rd bn, Srihari Pandey has been made SP, Diamond Harbour,” an EC official, who did not wish to be named, told The Indian Express.
The notification added, “The present incumbent officers being shifted [are] not to be involved by the state government in any election-related duties.”
Sources said the poll panel’s decision was based on reports filed by Special Police Observer for West Bengal, Vivek Dubey.
The state government had appointed Anuj Sharma as the new Kolkata Police Commissioner after his predecessor Rajeev Kumar was transferred as ADG and IG of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID). Kumar had faced questioning by CBI in Shillong after the Supreme Court directed him to appear before the CBI and cooperate in the investigation of chit fund scams. The CBI had approached the Supreme Court after its officials were thwarted by Kolkata Police when they went to Kumar’s official residence to question him. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee sat on a three-day dharna to protest the CBI move. The incident had triggered controversy after many police officers, including Anuj Sharma, were seen at the dharna site.
On the other hand, the BJP has alleged that Gyanwant Singh allowed police to interfere in the discharge of duty of the customs officials in a recent incident at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International airport.
The BJP, meanwhile, welcomed the ECI directive. “It is clear from this that the ECI wants to conduct free and fair election. While one police officer was seen with Mamata Banerjee at her dharna site, another was involved in preventing custom officials from searching bags of TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife at the airport. Under these police officers, free and fair polls cannot be expected. We welcome this move,” said West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh. TMC spokesperson and MP Derek O’Brien was unavailable for comment.
Interestingly, the opposition BJP and CPM had lodged complaints against the Diamond Harbour SP with the ECI over “partisan attitude.”
Coincidentally, Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee is an MP from Diamond Harbour constituency and is seeking re-election.
Deputy Election Commissioner Sudeep Jain had expressed concern about the law and order situation in West Bengal during a meeting with state EC officials in Kolkata last month. He had warned some SPs, including that of Diamond Harbour.