Mumbai has a new police commissioner and Arup Patnaik has a new job. Ending an 11-day long drama, the latter was transferred yesterday to the post of director-general of Maharashtra State Security Corporation (MSSC) following criticism from various quarters over his ‘inept’ handling of the August 11 Azad Maidan violence.
Sources say while the state home ministry led by Nationalist Congress Party’s RR Patil wanted Patnaik out, Prithviraj Chavan was not too keen. The deadlock was finally ended following a call from NCP supremo Sharad Pawar to the CM, senior leaders of Democratic Front say.
Though the home ministry had moved the proposal for Patnaik’s transfer on August 13, the final approval by the CM was pending. Chavan reportedly maintained that Patnaik’s relocation would be viewed as a punishment, and he should be promoted.
The home department re-submitted the file with a fresh bid to elevate Patnaik and names of probable candidates to replace him as Mumbai’s police commissioner. This was awaiting Chavan’s approval since August 16.
Meanwhile, many developments took place including the August 21 morcha led by Raj Thackeray.
MNS and other parties such as Shiv Sena and BJP were demanding resignations of RR Patil and Arup Patnaik for awkward management of the August 11 protest rally organised by Raza Academy.
NCP leaders felt Patnaik’s transfer was the only way to clear up the atmosphere of resentment prevailing in the state. Accordingly, the proposal to transfer Patnaik was moved by the home department.
According to sources, the CM was being pressurised by his own party men against transferring Patnaik. Chavan is believed to have conveyed to NCP leaders that the reassignment would set an inappropriate precedent and will also send a wrong signal to the state bureaucracy. Such demands would be difficult to consider in future, he is believed to have said.
On Wednesday, soon after the state cabinet meeting at Vidhan Bhavan, the CM, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Home Minister RR Patil sat together for over an hour and a half, discussed the issue in the backdrop of the MNS morcha and the existing situation in the state.
In the evening, sources say, Pawar intervened and is believed to have thrashed out the matter with the CM over the phone. Rumours were rife that there was internal bickering within NCP and Ajit Pawar was not prepared for Patnaik’s transfer.
When Home Minister RR Patil was probed about this he termed such reports baseless. Meanwhile, the Wednesday evening developments were so frenzied that the CM reportedly called up his NCP colleagues asking whether he should forward the file immediately in the night or wait till next morning.
The particular dossier was returned to the home department on Thursday morning and the orders were issued. While approving the proposition, the CM gave the go-ahead for Satyapal Singh to be made the new city police chief being the most senior on the list.