Police commissioner Arup Patnaik’s transfer may have more to do with the politicking between the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party than the August 11 violence at Azad Maidan.
The ruling allies have been locked in a tussle over key postings in the police department, including that of the Mumbai police commissioner. In the state’s administrative setup, the posts of Mumbai’s municipal and police commissioners wield tremendous power and the occupants often report directly to chief minister on important matters. This is the reason the NCP prefers to have a police commissioner of its choice. “When it became clear that Patnaik was taking orders from chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, the NCP – and home minister RR Patil, in particular - wanted him out,” claimed a senior Congress minister.
Patnaik’s transfer had become imminent after the home department, held by the NCP, recommended it strongly. But on Wednesday, Chavan met senior cabinet colleagues where NCP ministers, including deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, recommended that the transfer should take place after a week to avoid giving credit to MNS chief Raj Thackeray.
The NCP is blaming Chavan for the timing of the decision. “The CM was not keen on Satyapal Singh [as police commissioner] and wanted to bide time over the selection of the candidate. However, NCP chief Sharad Pawar spoke to him on Wednesday and indicated that there would be no compromise on Singh. That is when the CM decided to shift Patnaik immediately,’’ an NCP minister said.
Singh is known to be close to both NCP chief Sharad Pawar and his nephew Ajit. He has put in a stint as the Pune police commissioner and hence, despite a terror attack at the German Bakery during his tenure, Singh came with a forceful recommendation from the home department.
“It is true that Satyapal Singh was removed after the German Bakery blast. But his work in both Nagpur and Pune was commendable and we are sure he can handle Mumbai well,” home minister RR Patil said on Thursday.
A Congress functionary, however, defended the timing of the move. “The CM took a view that this was an administrative decision and there was no point waiting for seven days if the decision would remain the same,’’ he said.
Relations between Chavan and the NCP continue to be sour. However, last month, a compromise was worked out between the Congress and Pawar at the Centre, forcing Chavan to agree with the NCP on certain issues.
Appointment of senior officials was one such issue. With Chavan not getting enough leg room to bring in an official of his choice, he did the next best thing by giving credit to MNS at the cost of NCP.