The proposed transfer of Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik has once again highlighted the tug of war between the ruling allies when it comes to the appointment of senior IAS and IPS officials.
While the coalition partners have often fought to ensure that their favoured officials get the senior posts, with chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, the issue has become more sticky as the Nationalist Congress Party feels sidelined when it comes to such decisions. With his predecessors, the NCP had a better understanding, and the delineation of turf was clearer.
Patnaik has now become the latest bone of contention. The NCP, which controls the home department, was not keen on Patnaik in the first place and felt slighted when Chavan went ahead.
"Despite speculation that Patnaik was the fall guy following the Azad Maidan violence, the move to get him out was drafted earlier. Home minister RR Patil and Patnaik never got along well," said a NCP minister, on condition of anonymity.
Patnaik is said to report more to Chavan than Patil.
The NCP leader said Sharad Pawar had also flagged the issue while listing the complaints against Chavan last month, when he threatened to pull out of the coalition. The decision over transfers of senior bureaucrats has to be taken after consultation with deputy chief minister. If it is the appointment of an IPS official, the home minister must be consulted. Not taking us into confidence will not do, Pawar had said to the media.
The irony is that just when Chavan seemed agreeable to the transfer, Raj Thackeray's demand to remove Patnaik has stymied the move. "Chavan admitted that the Azad Maidan protest was a gross error of judgment and intel failure and was willing to transfer Patnaik," said a Congress leader, requesting anonymity. "But the bigger picture is that the NCP is keen on placing senior officials it is on good terms with in top posts before the 2014 polls."