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Punjab violence: DGP Sumedh Singh Saini shifted by Badal govt

The Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab on Sunday “booted out” its once trusted and time-tested “trouble-shooter” Sumedh Singh Saini and appointed Suresh Arora in his place as new state police chief - a desperate move aimed at placating the Sikh radicals and defusing the current political crisis.

punjab Updated: Oct 25, 2015 23:36 IST
Pawan Sharma
Pawan Sharma
Hindustan Times
Sumedh Singh Saini,Suresh Arora,Punjab
A combination photo of Suresh Arora (left) and Sumedh Singh Saini.(Agencies)

The Parkash Singh Badal government in Punjab on Sunday “booted out” its once trusted and time-tested “trouble-shooter” Sumedh Singh Saini and appointed Suresh Arora in his place as new state police chief - a desperate move aimed at placating the Sikh radicals and defusing the current political crisis.

It is within a fortnight of removing its intelligence wing chief and additional director general of police (ADGP) HS Dhillon that the Badal dispensation has decided to drop Saini as director general of police (DGP). He was appointed in March 2012 after (in January 2012) the coalition of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had won its second consecutive assembly elections.

In the past one month, the government has been grappling with a series of back-to-back political crises. After the farmers’ agitation, a religio-political situation in the wake of the pardon to Sirsa dera head Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, and a string of incidents of sacrilege of Guru Granth Sahib, the regime has been on the back foot, with the unrest spiralling out of control and the trust between the police and the government fast eroding.

Indian Police Service (IPS) officer Suresh Arora, a batch mate of Saini from 1982, was DGP (vigilance bureau) until his elevation. He takes over the reign at a juncture when the police morale is at its nadir and the scared Akali leadership is not willing to giving them a free hand. The major challenge before the new DGP, a level-headed officer known to avoid controversies, will be to strike a balance between the Badal government facing a revolt-like situation from within and the radicals staging a comeback on the political and religious chessboard of Punjab.

“The Punjab government appointed Suresh Arora as new DGP. The order has been issued already. Sumedh Singh Saini has been posted as DGP-cum-chairman of Punjab Police Housing Corporation,” an official spokesperson said on Sunday here. Political analysts say that at the core of chief minister Badal’s and deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal’s biting this bullet finally is an attempt to reconnect with the SAD’s panthic and Sikh constituency. Not only the Sikh radicals but also leaders within the SAD were asking for the head of Saini, a daredevil and ruthless police officer who was in the frontline of fighting terrorism.

The father-son combination of the CM and his deputy, key moderate faces of the SAD, kept resisting the “shunt Saini” chorus until the unrest began to threaten their own political existence. Even as behind the peace-vitiating blockades and protests that pitch-forked the Sikh radicals to the centre stage is the controversial decision of grating pardon to Sirsa dera head, the popular opinion within the SAD was that by sacrificing Saini, the radicals and the forces holding Saini responsible for the anti-SAD sentiments could be tamed.

As Punjab continues to be on the boil and the Sikh faith in turmoil, the decision to make Saini a fall guy is a major psychological victory for the radical elements active in Punjab in particular and outside India in general.

First Published: Oct 25, 2015 15:59 IST