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4-min read

OPINION | The Mamata-CBI Fight Fest May be Over for Now, But Troubles for TMC Have Only Just Begun

While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee described the SC order as a moral victory, the Centre is mounting pressure on her to initiate action against Rajeev Kumar for his alleged indiscipline and violation of services rules.

Shantanu Mukharji |

Updated:February 10, 2019, 12:02 AM IST
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OPINION | The Mamata-CBI Fight Fest May be Over for Now, But Troubles for TMC Have Only Just Begun
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee speaks to her party workers during a sit-in over the CBI's attempt to question the Kolkata Police commissioner in connection with chit fund scams, in Kolkata. (Image: PTI)

In what appears to be the most striking and balanced verdict delivered by the Supreme Court, the ongoing stalemate between the CBI and the Bengal government reached a temporary reprieve on Monday when the SC asked the CBI to proceed and interrogate the Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with chit fund scam cases.

While West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee described the SC order, which was delivered by a three-judge Bench presided over by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, as a moral victory, fresh reports indicate that the Centre is mounting pressure on Banerjee to initiate action against Kumar for his alleged “indiscipline” and violation of services rules.

Both the warring sides, however, seem relentless. While Banerjee called off her three-day dharna after the SC order, the charged political atmosphere prevailing across Bengal does not seem to be fizzling out anytime soon as the political opponents of the Bengal CM and her party Trinamool Congress (TMC) are now making frenzied moves and, as part of the general election strategy, stepped up their attack on the Mamata Banerjee led government.

Some serving and some erstwhile chief ministers of the NDA-ruled states also look determined to tear apart the Bengal establishment. When their attempts to hold anti-TMC rallies failed as their copters did not get permission to land in public venues, they took out road journeys to address the masses to keep the BJP agenda alive in the state. Emboldened by these successful road shows, the BJP leaders have decided to take the recourse to public venues through road journeys and more visits by political rivals remain on cards in not so distant future.

The battle lines are clearly drawn now with deep vertical polarisation. Police officers are divided ideologically, and with many shifting their allegiance to the BJP, this is likely to become a trend of further adrift in the system. Most recently, a woman IPS officer joined the BJP alleging a change of attitude in Mamata Banerjee.

It’s not impertinent here to closely examine if this unpleasant logjam by the Bengal government was at all avoidable. I think it was possible and very much so. When the matter was heating up and a showdown between the two warring sides seemed like a certainty, a quick appreciation or an appraisal of the emerging situation could have been emancipated at Kolkata itself before the drama unfolded last Sunday.

I had chanced upon a hurriedly scribbled note from the CBI addressed to the local police, asking the latter for help in entering Kumar’s house. This indicates amateurism and lack of a proper road map on part of a professional force which was all cued up on its mission.

On ground, intelligence needs to have been taken into account. All of a sudden, the arrival of a posse of 40 CBI cops attempting to enter police commissioner’s residential complex was perhaps taken as an affront by the local authorities leading to acrimony. Exchange of strong words, flexing of muscles and show of force, is out in the open. Unfortunately, both the contentious parties are faced with a diverse agenda. This has also set in a sense of hate towards each other and is unlikely to fade into oblivion anytime soon.

Also, the credibility of CBI has taken a severe beating due to many developments in the recent past. Now, with a new CBI chief at the helm and with the Supreme Court and government taking extraordinary interest to streamline its structure and functioning, a tax payer is hoping that the agency rise to the occasion and deliver on prime investigations, including on the volatile Bengal chit fund scam. Here, coming weeks will keenly pursue the outcome of the scam’s interrogation in Shillong that Rajeev Kumar will be subjected to.

What the latest standoff has produced is a perilous situation, with deep divisions among the prosecution and defence lawyers arguing in the court and during TV debates. On the other hand, this development has alarmingly raised the political mercury of the country with parties making it a prestige issue using uncalled for language to pin one down.

Bengal is a communally sensitive place and even a small spark due to an irresponsible remark may be enough to heighten tensions. That the police force today looks charged with political linkages — as a disciplinary force and as custodians of law — must be seen as nonpartisan and discharging their responsibilities with dedication. This may seem a tall order but police challenges are most demanding, with thousands of pairs of eyes watching them with pride for a sterling performance — especially when handling the election planning and management.

On their part, the political parties, civil rights groups and the intellectual class of Bengal should jointly ensure that the law and order prevails and the atmosphere doesn’t get hijacked by a political party for its petty gains.

(The writer is a retired IPS officer and a security analyst . Views expressed are personal.)

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| Edited by: Divya Kapoor
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