Battleground Bengal: Security adviser’s powers seized

After transferring senior cops, is the Center engaging in another powerplay to show Mamata Banerjee who’s the boss?

Bengal: Security adviser’s powers seizedOriginal Image: The Telegraph

Law and order is a state subject, therefore the local police force, especially its top ranking officers always have a closer relationship with the state government rather than the central government. Perhaps this is the reason why the center has been taking different steps to alienate West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee from her homegrown cops by ordering sudden transfers and seizing powers of some of the top most officials in the state this election season.

The Telegraph reports that yesterday the West Bengal Chief Secretary Alapan Bandyopadhyay, on Wednesday, issued notice to seize powers of the State Security Adviser (SSA), Surajit Kar Purakayastha. It is noteworthy that the 1985-batch IPS officer was previously (2016-20018) the Director General of Police in the state, and before that the Police Commissioner of Kolkata. Perhaps because of this he was perceived to be close to Mamata Banerjee. After all, the position of the SSA was created especially for the retired IPS officer in 2018. However, though it was clearly a political appointment, SSA is an apolitical post.

But India Today reports that many political parties had made representations to the Election Commission (EC) for his removal. According to the Telegraph, the Chief Secretary’s order also might have been at the suggestion of the EC, that is allegedly working at the behest of the regime in power at the Center. It is no secret that West Bengal is the state that the BJP covets most.

It is noteworthy, that on March 14, 2021, the Election Commission of India (ECI) in an unprecedented move either suspended or transferred some of the top most Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and Indian Police Service (IPS) officers in the state of West Bengal, purportedly for their failure to prevent the injury caused to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on March 10 in Nandigram. The most high-profile suspension was that of Vivek Sahay IPS, Director Security. The ADG rank officer was highly respected in Bengal’s police establishment, and his suspension raised eyebrows. 

The ECI had directed, “The charges must be framed against him within a week for grossly failing in discharge of his primary duty as Director Security to protect the Z+ protectee.” It had further directed, “A Committee of Chief Secretary and DGP shall identify within next three days the other proximate security personnel below Director Security, who failed in their duties to prevent the incident and protect the Z+ protectee VVIP and take suitable action for their failure under intimation to the Commission by 1700 hours on 17th March 2021.” This move is noteworthy, as these “proximate security personnel” have been working with Banerjee for years. It thus appears to be a rather sensitive step, given how it is basically a move directed at taking Banerjee’s trusted inner circle of security personnel away from her.

Is this an intimidation tactic? More importantly, will it work on Mamata Banerjee?


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