- West Bengal Chief Minister has written to the poll body
- She says transfer of cops is highly arbitrary, motivated and biased
- The Election Commission order to replace 4 top cops was issued last night
The transfer of four top West Bengal police officers ordered by the Election Commission days before national polls has triggered an ugly war of words. In an unusually sharp letter to the poll body, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has written said that the order was "highly arbitrary, motivated and biased" and was issued "at behest of the BJP".
"This flow of events gives rise to strong doubts whether the Commission is functioning as per its Constitutional mandate of conducting free and fair elections or working in a manner to appease the ruling BJP at the Centre," Ms Banerjee wrote.
Stating that law and order were under the state's jurisdiction, she said the replacement officers were new to the area and may "jeopardise" operations like seizure of money and liquor that can be used to influence voters.
"The decision... leaves a big question mark whether this step is to give a shield to the vested interested parties and their political masters," Ms Banerjee wrote.
The Election Commission order to replace four police officers including the Kolkata Police Commissioner was issued last night, preventing them from being posted for any election related duties.
Anuj Sharma, who was replaced by Dr Rajesh Kumar, Additional Director General, Pollution Control Board, had only been appointed Kolkata Police Commissioner on February 19. The post fell vacant after the removal of Rajeev Kumar, the officer whose residence the CBI allegedly tried to gatecrash in February and prompted Ms Banerjee to sit on dharna.
Mr Sharma and Gyanwant Singh, the Bidhan Nagar Commissioner who was also replaced, were at the site of Mamata Banerjee's dharna in central Kolkata on the evening of February 3.
Their presence had snowballed into a major row, with BJP questioning how serving police officers could sit on dharna with the chief minister. Mamata Banerjee said they were not on the dharna manch but only providing her security while the manch or stage was being built.
"May be there were objections from political parties against some police officers. Some of them were at Mamata Banerjee's dharna manch and another went to the airport and argued with Customs officials over so called harassment of the wife Mrs Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee," said Dilip Ghosh, state BJP chief, said last night.
Birbhum has seen several clashes between BJP and Trinamool in the last few years, peaking ahead of the panchayat elections last year. Trinamool district chief, Anubrata Mondal, is infamous for making outrageous comments, including urging party workers to "bomb the police" if they show sympathy to Trinamool opponents.
The Election Commission order came after reviewing the poll preparedness of the state.
West Bengal will vote in all seven phases when elections begin next Thursday. Votes will be counted on May 23.