The Election Commission of India (EC) on Thursday appointed 1982-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) Suresh Arora as the Punjab director general of police (DGP), as replacement for Sumedh Singh Saini who has gone on leave from April 4 to May 20.
After the EC received a fax message for leave from Saini on Wednesday night, it had asked the state chief secretary, Rakesh Singh, to send a panel of three names for replacement. Apart from Arora's, the names of 1981-batch IPS officer GD Pandey and another 1982-batch officer, Sanjeev Gupta, were sent. "The commission (ECI) has chosen Suresh Arora to head Punjab Police from the panel of three top officers," deputy election commissioner Alok Shukla, incharge of Punjab, confirmed to HT over telephone. The EC's letter to the state chief secretary states that the commission has approved Arora's name "for being posted as DGP, Punjab, during the leave period of [Saini]". Though Arora was third in seniority, commission officials said he was picked on the basis of inputs from various sources.
Saini has proceeded on leave after being under close watch of the EC as complaints by the Congress said he was helping the ruling SAD-BJP combine in the Lok Sabha polls. Punjab Congress president Partap Singh Bajwa had even met chief election commissioner VS Sampath to seek Saini's transfer.
It is learnt that during a visit of a team from the commission to Punjab next week, Saini could have been transferred. As an apparent face-saver, he proceeded on leave the day the formal notification for the LS polls in Punjab was issued. The state votes on April 30, and the counting is scheduled for May 16. Ironically, Punjab's principal secretary, home, SS Channy, and chief electoral officer VK Singh were not aware about Saini's move until the EC sought a panel of names for replacement.
Arora's current post - chief director, state vigilance bureau - now falls vacant. He had succeeded Saini into this post, too, after Saini became the state DGP in 2012. Similarly, when Saini had left charge as senior superintendent of police (SSP), Chandigarh, in the early '90s, Arora had taken over.