The What, Why and Who of West Bengal’s Constitutional crisis

Since Sunday evening, people from all over the country are witnessing shocking scenes out of West Bengal. From a direct face-off between the Kolkata police and CBI, to state’s Chief Minister sitting on a dharna along with her entire cabinet, there has been a lot of firsts in past 24 hours.

But amid all the fast paced action and journalists shouting at the top of their vocal cords, many have still not been able to figure out, what exactly is happening. Well, if you happen to be one of those who are still in confusion about the situation in West Bengal, look no further because we are breaking it all down point by point.

What happened:

In recent days, the CBI has all of a sudden accelerated the pace of its investigation in West Bengal’s infamous Sharada Chit fund scam. From past couple of days, there were rumours and reports that the CBI is looking for Kolkata’s police commissioner, Rajeev Kumar. The reports also claimed that the commissioner is absconding.

However, on Sunday afternoon, Kolkata police held a press conference, in which they absolutely rubbished the reports and also warned of taking legal steps against those spreading such rumours.

The same evening, images of a scuffle between the officers of CBI and police outside of the residence of Kolkata commissioner surfaced on television screens across the country. Within minutes it was revealed that a team of no less than 40 CBI officers had landed outside of the premises of Rajeev Kumar to carry out searches at his residence and even arrest him, if required.

But the plans did not unfolded the way CBI had perhaps expected. As soon as the CBI officers stepped out of their vehicles, they encountered an even bigger team of Kolkata police, who immediately took them into custody. This was just the beginning of a long night of high voltage political drama. Shortly after this it was reported that the offices and residences of CBI officers in Kolkata at CGO complex, have been surrounded by police. By now it all seemed like as if a civil war between the central and state of government had broken out.

Soon-after, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee came out to interact with the media, where she accused the central government of attempting a political coup in the state. Here it is noteworthy that this is an allegation, Banerjee was not making for the first time. Couple of years back when a team of Army officials were spotted outside of state secretariate at around midnight, she had made similar allegations against the central government.

From the press meet, Banerjee also announced of sitting on a dharna for indefinite period, to protect the country’s constitution and federal structure.

Why is CBI behind Rajeev Kumar?:

The question that many might be wondering is why the CBI is going against a fellow police officer?

When the Sharada chit fund scam first came to forefront in around 2013-2014, the West Bengal Government had constituted a special investigation team with Rajeev Kumar as its head. The case was however handed over to the CBI by an order of the Supreme Court after few months. The top court had also directed the Rajeev Kumar led SIT to hand-over all the records and evidences regarding the case under its disposal to the CBI.

The CBI has now however alleged that there were some electronic evidences that were suppressed by Rajeev Kumar. To be specific, according to CBI, there were one laptop and a number of mobile phones which may contain important leads to the case, that Rajeev Kumar led team did not hand over to them.

Who is Rajeev Kumar?:

This perhaps is the question that must be haunting the minds of the most. This question becomes more relevant, considering the fact that a number of top TMC leaders and Ministers of Mamata government had been behind the bars in Sharada case, but the West Bengal CM never reacted as strongly as she did this time. One is bound to wonder, is Rajeev Kumar more important of a person to Banerjee than even her old comrades, Sudip Banerjee and Madan Mitra?

A 1989-batch IPS officer of West Bengal cadre, Kumar is the commissioner of highly respected Kolkata police force. But there is more to him than just that. Anyone close to the narrow lanes of old Kolkata must’ve heard the whispers that Kolkata police commissioner is the unofficial secretary general of West Bengal. He is the first cop to hold an office in State secretariate, because usually police officers operate out of the police headquarters at Lalbazar and not the political headquarters.

Many say, Rajeev Kumar is the second man in West Bengal Government, next only to Chief Minister who also happens to be the Police Minister.

Mamata Banerjee is still at her Dharna, the CBI on the other hand is also firm on their stance that Kumar is guilty of suppressing evidence. All three parties, West Bengal government, Central government and CBI have reached out to the Supreme Court. The next turn of events in this matter would be shaped by the country’s top court now.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi.