The transfers in West Bengal have been made to ‘ensure free and fair polls’.

 

New Delhi: At least 12 senior IPS and IAS officers of West Bengal have been transferred by the Election Commission (EC) even before the first phase of polling that was held in the state on Saturday, citing reports of “partial conduct” and “political leanings” from the special observers deputed by the Commission in Bengal.

The list of IPS and IAS officers of West Bengal who have been transferred by the EC within a month of the declaration of the model code of conduct includes, West Bengal ADG Law and Order, Jawed Shammim, Director General of Police (DGP) West Bengal, Virender, Howrah (Rural) SP Saumya Roy, Director security, Vivek Sahay, SP Purba Mednipur, Praveen Prakash, West Bengal State Security Advisor, Surajit Kar Puryakayastha, DM and DEO Jhargram, Ayesha Rani, ADG West Zone, Sanjay Singh, SP Diamond Harbour Avijit Banerjee, SP Cooch Behar Dr K Kannan, DCP South Kolkata Sudhir Neelkantha and DM and DEO of Purba Medinipur Vibhu Goel.

West Bengal ADG Law and Order Jawed Shamim was one of the first senior IPS officers from West Bengal who was transferred by the EC. The EC ordered his transfer on 27 February, soon after the declaration of the dates for polls in West Bengal and four other states on 26 February.

Shamim was appointed as ADG Law and Order by Home Minister and Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, just days before the poll dates were announced by the EC. Shamim is known to be close to the ruling TMC and Mamata Banerjee. The Opposition had made multiple deputations to the Commission against him and several other IPS officers of the State.

The EC transferred the senior most IPS officer and Director General of Police (DGP) of West Bengal, Virender, on 9 March. The EC had ordered that Virender be kept out of all polling duties in the state and should be kept on waiting till the election results in the state are declared.

The 1985 batch IPS officer, Virender, who had taken over as the DGP of West Bengal on 31 May 2018, was replaced by 1987 batch IPS officer P. Nirajnayan. Nirajnayan was one of the officers who were recommended by the West Bengal government for Central deputation. Howrah (Rural) SP Saumya Roy was ordered to be kept out of all polling duties by the EC soon after it received complaints from the Opposition parties about Roy’s wife being one of the candidates from the ruling TMC.

The suspension order of Vivek Sahay, a senior IPS officer and Director security for Mamata Banerjee, came soon after an alleged attack on Banerjee was reported from Nandigram. The EC has also ordered an inquiry into the matter. This was followed by the removal of the SP and DM of Purba Mednipur, who has been asked by the EC not to be engaged in any polling duty and to sit out during the entire polling period in the state.

Taking note of multiple complaints from the Opposition parties and reports from the Special Observers for Bengal Vivek Dubey and Ajay V. Nayak, the EC earlier this week transferred West Bengal State Security Advisor Surajit Kar Puryakayastha and have made his position of State Security Advisor as “defunct”.

Surajit Kar Puryakayastha is a retired IPS officer who was given this special post created for him by Home Minister Mamata Banerjee after his retirement. He is considered to be one of the closest IPS officers to Mamata Banerjee. He is the same officer who sat on a dharna with Mamata Banerjee outside the house of his junior colleague Rajiv Kumar before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Banerjee, along with several other TMC leaders, had sat on a dharna to protest against the CBI who had come for questioning Kumar in the Sharada chit fund scam in February 2019.

Sources in the EC said that they have taken action against these senior IPS officers to ensure free and fair polling in the state.

“We have received several deputations against these officers. It is an open secret that these IPS officers are close to the ruling dispensation and, therefore, it is only unfair to keep them holding on to those influential positions. Moreover, the special observers and the intelligence units have also given us suspicious reports about these officers who could be influencing the polls through their power, for a particular political party. It is the responsibility of the EC to ensure that free and fair polls are held in every state and for that, if we have to transfer more officers, it would be done as and when the need arises,” a source in the EC told this correspondent.

Opposition political parties in Bengal have also been repeatedly raising the question about how the police in Bengal have been made to work as “part of the TMC cadre” and they have been constantly making deputations to the EC with names of such police officers to keep them away during polling time to ensure that free and fair elections. West Bengal also has a history of political violence during elections and one of the deadliest elections in the recent past was witnessed from the state when more than 20 people were killed and hundreds injured during the 2018 Panchayat elections.