‘Exceeding brief, interference’: Why top Bengal officials were shifted by EC
The Election Commission’s decision to transfer West Bengal CID’s additional director general Rajeev Kumar and relieve the state’s home secretary Atri Bhattacharya of his duties in the wake of clashes between Trinamool Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party workers was based on a two-page report by its observers on location. The report, reviewed by HT, details what happened during and after BJP president Amit Shah’s rally and ends by asking for “Exemplary action against Sh Atri Bhattacharya, Principal Secretary, Home and Sh Rajeev Kumar,. Addl DG, CID”.
In Kumar’s case, the report mentions how he went to the Peerless Hotel in the New market area in the middle of the night on Tuesday-Wednesday to detain BJP spokesperson Tejinder Bagga and bring him to Jorasanko police station. “Rajeev Kumar had no authority since these three cases arising out of law and order incident squarely fell in the domain of the Commissioner of Police, Kolkata. He has, therefore, clearly exceeded his brief.’’
The three cases referred to are those registered after the violence on Tuesday. 100 people were detained and while 58 were charged, the others were let off.
In Bhattacharya’s case, the report refers to letter that he wrote to the Chief Electoral Officer of the state. The report describes the letter as “literally directing” how the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) should be conducting itself. The report calls it “a direct interference in the conduct of elections’’ something which is the job of the EC.
The report also joined issue with the home secretary’s letter suggestion that Quick Response Teams (QRTs) of the Election Commission did not have any local police escort. The report said that this was an inaccurate suggestion since each such team has a constable attached and the local SHO was also free to follow the QRT wherever it went. The observers said that the state government has tried to project the impression that law and order is the EC’s responsibility whereas it continued to be in the domain of the state government.
On Thursday, Rajeev Kumar reported for duty to the ministry of home affairs to which he has been transferred. He then immediately proceeded on leave.
On Wednesday, the Election Commission pruned 19 hours off the previous deadline for close of campaigning in West Bengal. Several opposition parties including the Trinamool Congress said this was done to ensure there was no disruption of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two rallies scheduled for Wednesday.
An EC official denied this and said its record is clear.