The Director General of Bengal Police, Mr Virender, has been replaced by Election Commission this evening ahead of the coming assembly elections in the state, amid concerns of violence voiced the loudest by the BJP. An Indian Police Service officer of the 1987 batch, P Nirajnayan, has been named the new police chief. He was last posted as the DG and IGP Administration.
This is the second high profile transfer of a senior IPS officer in Bengal ahead of the polls. Mr Javed Shamim, ADG Law and Order, was transferred by the EC on February 27.
Mr Shamim was appointed DG fire services. The serving DG fire services Mr Jagmohan replaced him.
Sougata Roy, Trinamool MP, said, "The DG was a very good officer. His removal is unfortunate. It seems to us that the Election Commission is doing everything that the BJP wants it to do. It doesn't matter we are winning this election".
BJP leader Samik Bhattacharya said the move was important as the Bengal Police was politically motivated. "We have suffered at the hands of the Bengal police which does not register FIR. The mother of a party worker has been passed off as suicides. Perhaps we will now get some justice."
Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary of the Congress said, "We also had complaint to Election Commission about the Bengal police. We are happy to see action being taken to ensure free and fair polling".
The state is set for a closely-watched contest between the ruling Trinamool Congress and a surging BJP, which is hoping to win 200 of the 294 assembly seats. Elections will begin on March 27 and continue till April 29, making it the longest ever polls in the state. The results will be declared on May 2.
The Commission had announced the eight-phase polls last month, but did not comment on whether the polling has been stretched out over the concerns raised by the BJP.
The outgoing Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, however, suggested that security had played a role in the planning.
"We avoid taking names of political parties. We had an assessment of law and order on several factors. Last time it was seven phases so eight is not a big deal," Mr Arora had said.
Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had questioned the move, tagging it was made "as per BJP requisition".
"Bihar has 240 seats and had elections in three phases. Tamil Nadu has 234 seats and will have election in one day. Why eight phases here? Who is benefitting?" she said.
The Chief Minister had also alleged that the polls were being stretched out in areas where the Trinamool Congress has a strong base and cited the example of South 24 Parganas, where the election is being held in three phases.