Arup Patnaik seems set to stay on as Mumbai’s police commissioner for a while longer, despite strident demands from the opposition and sections within the government for his ouster over his handling of the violence at Azad Maidan on August 11.
All of Wednesday, there was speculation that Patnaik’s sacking was imminent, but sources in the government told HT that chief minister Prithviraj Chavan and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar had a meeting and both are agreed that transferring Patnaik immediately will play into the opposition’s hands. The view in the government appears to be that Patnaik can be eased out when his promotion becomes due in some time.
And the frontrunners to replace him are the chief of the anti-terrorism squad Rakesh Maria and the former police commissioner of Pune Satyapal Singh.
After the cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Chavan, Pawar, home minister RR Patil, who is also under fire from the opposition, and senior ministers, Chhagan Bhujbal and Harshawardhan Patil, met to discuss the matter. The apparent consensus was that moving Patnaik out now would appear a knee-jerk reaction to the opposition’s pressure, especially after the massive rally on Tuesday by Raj Thackeray and his Maharashtra Navnirman Sena demanding that both the home minister and the police commissioner be sacked.
Asked to comment, the chief minister said: “This is an administrative matter. I will not speak on it. Files of promotions and transfers always come to me.”
A senior official, who did not wish to be named, said: “Patnaik might just have got a fresh but short lease as police commissioner because shifting him out now would have made Thackeray a hero, something that neither the Congress nor the Nationalist Congress Party is keen on. But, his transfer seems imminent as the NCP has been putting pressure to get him out.’’
An NCP minister claimed that the proposal to transfer him was mooted at least 12 days ago, just before the Azad Maidan protest organised by Raza Academy.
“Patil and Patnaik don’t share a good working equation. The latter does not even obey the home minister’s orders,’’ said the minister, on condition of anonymity