Hyderabad: A little over a month ago, when an angry West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee staged a sit-in protest in the heart of Kolkata in support of Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, it took the IPS fraternity across the country by storm as they watched the proceedings in disbelief.
Banerjee was angry after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which accused the senior IPS officer of being a “potential accused” in the Saradha and Rose Valley Ponzi schemes, went to his house to question him.
Now, perhaps taking a cue from his West Bengal counterpart, AP Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is doing likewise. Hours after the Election Commission of India (ECI) shunted out AP’s DG, Intelligence, A.B. Venkateswara Rao considered Naidu’s blue eyed boy an angry Naidu is taking on none other than the ECI itself!
Though it is quite common for IPS officers to get close to the powers-that-be and enjoy key postings and work in the interests of their “beloved Chief Minister”, this new “trend” set by Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu to “save” their blue eyed boys has raised many an eyebrow within the IPS fraternity.
While many feel that this will set a bad example in the long run, not only among serving IPS officers but also fresh IPS recruits, there are also voices that insist that the reputation of many central agencies and constitutional authorities, too, is questionable, and they are bent upon targeting officers for political gains.
“Due to caste equations, it becomes quite natural for Chief Ministers to trust particular officers and the officer too may become a blue eyed boy of the powers-that-be and they find that this arrangement will have a little bit of advantage. Having said that, I feel that it is mainly the perception of the opposition who think that a certain officer is close to the CM,” says ex-DGP K. Aravinda Rao, who also served as the state intelligence chief in the Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy regime.
When told that he too was perceived to be the blue eyed boy of the late YSR, Aravinda Rao said: “I found YSR to be a good leader. I worked with complete professional honesty and he liked me. With me, he was always frank and trusted me. But there are some Chief Ministers who are experts in exploiting officers, more so if they belong to the same caste,” Mr Rao said, adding that officers should work and remain within limits and only when they cross that, the opposition takes note of it.
“Politicians have a great memory and they don’t forget anything,” says the officer of the 1977 batch.
Former DGP A.K. Mohanty has a slightly different take on the subject.
“Officials, who reconcile to themselves, stand by values and ethics and thereafter it becomes immaterial whether the powers that be stand by you or don't. But anyone who stands by values and ethics will have to do so at their own risk,” said Mohanty, who was appointed DGP by the ECI during the tenure of Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy as the Chief Minister.
He had replaced the then DGP S.S.P. Yadav, who was accused by the opposition of being partisan. But within hours of YSR being sworn in as Chief Minister, Mohanty was removed and Yadav was brought back.
Without going into details, Mohanty, a 1975 batch IPS officer, who previously served as Hyderabad Police Commissioner and had a running feud with Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy, says that one should understand that the oath taken by a police officer is different from the oath taken by a politician. “Any oath will have value only if the society respects those values,” he says.
Another senior official, who did not wish to be identified, said that the fault also lies with the way agencies like the CBI and the Election Commission are functioning.
“Of late, questions are being raised over the way the central agencies are functioning. The CBI vs CBI is a classic example. Even the ECI has been accused of wrongdoing many times. I feel that these issues should be looked at from both sides and not only from the side of Chief Ministers coming in support of their blue eyed boys.”
Umesh Kumar, a 1977 batch IPS officer, says that once an officer gets the feeling that everything (administration/ governance) is running smoothly only because of his contribution, “then starts the problem. This is how the officer becomes a yes man and becomes more acceptable to the powers that be. Over a period of time, the officer starts taking care of the interests of the powers that be and they in turn take care of him. The dividing line between right and wrong becomes thinner.”
Former DGP of Jammu and Kashmir, K. Rajendra says that since law and order is a state subject, respective governments want to have a total grip on the officials. “If some police officer goes on to work in the Centre, he will start toeing the line of the central government and if the officer is working in the state, he takes the line of the state government which should be in accordance with law.”
Rajendra says that there have been many examples of how certain state governments had victimised police officials, who simply went about doing their job when another political party was in power.
“Also, no state would like the interference of the central government in its functioning. It leads to unnecessary friction. It is common for governments to shield their trusted officers. If CMs don’t have the confidence, then how will they post officers in various key posts?” he asks.
A senior police official, holding a key post, says that in the present day and age, all key posts depend on whether the powers that be like your or not.
“After all, a politician is looking at his future as well. But officers get carried away by the power they yield once they get close to the power centres. In fact, once everyone knows your proximity to the powers that be, they start being very careful in dealing with them and tell them only those things which they like to hear,” he says.