A 1989 batch IPS officer, Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar hogged the limelight along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for the better part of this week. After a CBI team arrived to search Mr. Kumar’s south Kolkata residence, Ms. Banerjee launched a sit-in, 13 years after she launched a fast during the Singur crisis. In 2006, it was against the Left, in 2019 it was directed against the right, the BJP. But this time the Supreme Court walked the middle path, halting Mr. Kumar’s imminent arrest, calming Ms. Banerjee and her counterparts in Delhi.
Why is he the target?
Launching the dharna in the city centre, Ms. Banerjee said it was “her duty to protect her officers.” But the Opposition trained guns on Mr. Kumar, with the BJP alleging that he had not furnished two crucial items — a red diary and a pen drive — seized during raids on the Saradha Group’s office. The office, at Midland Park in Salt Lake, falls under the jurisdiction of the Bidhannagar Commissionerate, and Mr. Kumar was its first Commissioner.
Ms. Banerjee blocked the CBI-Kumar interaction to “protect herself,” said Union Minister Prakash Javadekar. The allegation was refuted by the main accused in the Saradha scam case, the group’s chief Sudipta Sen, who has been in prison since 2013. The CBI, in a 17-page affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, alleged that Mr. Kumar “destroyed, destructed and tampered with the material primary evidence in form of CDRs [call data records] while handing over the same to the CBI on 28.6.2018.”
Is he close to the CM?
When Ms. Banerjee stormed to power in 2011, she kept her distance from Mr. Kumar, who was known to be close to Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, the outgoing Chief Minister. But Ms. Banerjee soon changed her opinion on Mr. Bhattacharjee’s “blue eyed” officer. Last Sunday, as she began her protest, she described Mr. Kumar as among the “best in the world.” He studied engineering at the University of Roorkie, now an IIT, preceding the decade when India opened itself to foreign investments in the early 1990s. Western Uttar Pradesh’s Kumars, with many teachers in their family, shifted to Chandausi, where Mr. Kumar’s father joined a local college as a professor of social science.
On completion of college, Mr. Kumar appeared for the civil services examination and cleared it. Mr. Kumar’s Roorkie-induced specialisation in technical intelligence, a rare feat among IPS officers, helped him grow in the ranks. He played a major role during the Left Front government in nabbing leaders connected to various people’s movements, like Chhatradhar Mahato. During that time, Ms. Banerjee, then in the Opposition, repeatedly alleged that Mr. Kumar was engaged in surveillance against the Left’s political opponents. But once in power, Ms. Banerjee considered Mr. Kumar an asset. A fitness enthusiast like the Chief Minister, Mr. Kumar was reinstated in the Special Task Force with the responsibility of technical intelligence.
At the time when the Saradha scam exploded and investors hit the streets in protest, it was Mr. Kumar who partly diffused the anger by arresting Sudipta Sen and his associates from Kashmir, tracking wireless devices. The Chief Minister was convinced of his ability to address complex situations and Mr. Kumar was soon elevated to the rank of CP of Bidhannagar Commissionerate, investigating the Saradha scam. The investigation — and his role in handling it — has landed him in trouble.
What lies in store?
The CBI began questioning Mr. Kumar in Shillong on Saturday. Depending on the nature and volume of evidence, the CBI may seek to vacate the stay on his arrest, issue a warrant and take him into custody. The key question, however, is how Ms. Banerjee responds to the challenge. Will she succumb to pressure or be more combative? We will have to wait and watch.