Two days before the first phase of Lok Sabha polls, the Election Commission (EC) transferred Cooch Behar Superintendent of Police (SP) Abhisekh Gupta on Tuesday. Amit Kumar Singh, a 2009-batch IPS officer, who was the Special Superintendent (SS) in the Intelligence Bureau (IB), will replace Gupta.
“The Commission has decided to transfer out Abhishek Gupta from the post of SP, Cooch Behar and to post Amit Kumar Singh, SS, IB as Superintendent Cooch Behar in his place. The Joining report of the newly posted officer shall be sent by 5pm on 9th April. The officer being transferred out shall not be given any election related duty,” read a letter by the Election Commission (EC) of India, signed by Amit Kumar to Chief Secretary of West Bengal.
The EC’s transfer order comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rally in Cooch Behar, where BJP leader Mukul Roy openly threatened Cooch Behar SP Gupta, accusing him of working for the ruling party, Trinamool Congress.
“I will be in politics for 10 more years to see how big an SP you are, Abhishek Gupta. You should throw your uniform. We will remember the game you played with us for doing a sabha in Cooch Behar,” Roy said at a rally on Sunday.
EC officials said Special Police Observer Vivek Dube had received complaints from observers of “non-cooperation” against Gupta during his visit to North Bengal. A few opposition leaders had also lodged complaints against Gupta, they said.
Welcoming the EC’s transfer order, BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said, “It is not possible to conduct free and fair elections with tainted police officers. In Cooch Behar, our candidate was attacked twice. There are many officers who work in favour of the TMC.”
CPM leader Sujan Chakraborty said, “It is the EC’s prerogative that on the basis of which report they have acted upon. But steps must be taken to ensure free and fair elections.”
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However, the Trinamool Congress questioned the EC’s role. “It is being said that actions are being taken on the basis of complaints by the opposition, including the BJP, the Congress and the CPM. We have also submitted a lot of complaints, but what have they done against those? Transferring people following statements made by Mukul Roy and Dilip Ghosh raises many questions on the EC’s neutrality,” said TMC general secretary Partha Chatterjee.
Sources said the Trinamool on Tuesday night will submit a letter to the Chief Election Commissioner regarding the transfer of Cooch Behar SP, urging the EC to review its decision.
A delegation, led by TMC MP Derek O’Brien, will meet the Chief Election Commissioner in Delhi on Wednesday, said sources. The letter has labelled the EC’s decision as “arbitrary and biased order”.
According to the letter, of which The Indian Express has a copy, reads that the Trinamool Congress would raise strong protest against the EC order 48 hours before polling in Cooch Behar. “It is an arbitrary, motivated and biased decision. From the events in the recent past, it is amply clear that such order of transfer has been passed at the behest of the ruling party at the Centre. During the recent meeting in Cooch Behar, BJP leader Mukul Roy threatened the SP with dire consequences. In the presence of Prime Minister, he hinted that Abhishek Gupta, the Superintendent of Police, will be robbed of his uniform. He obliquely hinted that he would soon be replaced by the EC, as if he has full control over the poll panel,” added letter.
The letter says while during the elections, the EC can exercise administrative power to direct transfer of officials, such decision can’t be taken to satisfy any particular political party. The letter alleges that the EC order suffers from the vice of lack of jurisdiction and is based on alien purposes or oblique motives, which has nothing to do with the conduct of polling duties.
The letter also questions the appointment of new SP Singh, who was deputed by the state government as a police observer to the state of Bihar. “Bringing him to the post of SP just 48 hours before the election date can significantly jeopardise the management of these areas effectively. The ECI’s independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are perceived to be compromised,” reads the letter.
Last week, the EC had transferred four top police officials, including commissioners of Kolkata Police and Bidhannagar Police, and relieved them of all election-related duties. Two Superintendents of Police were also transferred.