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CBI tip-off to Mamata about arrest of police chief gives her time to act

Wednesday, February 06, 2019
By Arati Jerath

It seems Mamata Banerjee may have been tipped off about the impending arrest by the CBI of the Bengal police chief Rajeev Kumar. And the tipoff is believed to have come from within the central investigative agency itself!

The CBI is so deeply divided after the recent internal war between its top bosses that two factions have surfaced. One is with the government and one seems to be on the other side.

It is the latter which is believed to have leaked news about the CBI team’s weekend visit to Kolkata to question and possibly arrest Rajeev Kumar.

The news was leaked on Friday night. The visit was planned for Sunday. Mamata had enough lead time to plan her counter strategy and mobilise people for a sit-in that would take the Modi government by surprise.

Mamata has certainly managed to turn the tables on the Centre. The Modi government thought it would take the wind out of the Trinamool chief’s sails by swooping down on her police chief without warning. But it didn’t know that Mamata was forewarned and fore-armed. She swung into action the minute the CBI team landed on Rajeev Kumar’s doorstep and did what she does best – she took to the streets and whipped up an emotional storm.

In the end, it was Mamata who took the wind out of the Modi government’s sails. The latter was unprepared for her street action and the immediate outpouring of opposition support for her. What BJP strategists seem to have forgotten is that the feisty Trinamool chief is no stranger to street agitations. She has built her political career on them.

Mamata seems to have gained the upper hand for the moment. And this should worry the BJP. But for the government, the turn of events suggest a greater problem. The tip-off that Mamata got indicates that sections of the bureaucracy seem to be wavering in their loyalty to the current regime.

Dikshit appointment queers pitch
The appointment of Sheila Dikshit as president of the Congress party’s Delhi unit may have queered the pitch for a Congress-AAP alliance to contest the Capital’s seven Lok Sabha seats.

It may be remembered that AAP captured the hearts and minds of Delhi voters in the 2013 assembly polls because of its strident and high-pitched campaign against Dikshit. The party had leveled serious allegation charges against the former Delhi chief minister and her government.

Dikshit’s appointment has caused consternation in AAP circles because a few weeks before the announcement, AAP Rajya Sabha MP and Kejriwal’s main negotiator Sanjay Singh had a closed door meeting with Rahul Gandhi. They are believed to have agreed in principle that the two parties will fight the BJP together in Delhi. A joint fight is projected to give the alliance all seven seats at the cost of the BJP.

Although Kejriwal was reluctant to cede space to the Congress which AAP has replaced in Delhi, Sanjay Singh is believed to have prevailed on him to agree. The carrot he held out was that the Congress would replace its Delhi chief Ajay Maken with a more AAP-friendly face.

The appointment of Dikshit was like a bombshell. She is certainly no AAP-friendly face, not after the 2013 campaign. And she has wasted no time in debunking all talk of an AAP-Congress alliance in Delhi.

AAP circles are puzzled by the change in Congress tactics. They are wondering whether victories in the recent round of assembly polls have made the Congress arrogant enough to believe that it can fight and win on its own. Was Dikshit’s appointment the first indication that the Congress has decided to up its game and go in for a more combative strategy without alliances?

After Dikshit’s appointment came the announcement of Priyanka Vadra’s entry into active politics and then the declaration that the Congress would contest all 80 seats in UP on its own and go it alone in Bengal and Andhra Pradesh as well.

Opposition circles are now concerned that the new aggressive stand of the Congress will only benefit Narendra Modi by splitting the anti-BJP votes. So much for all the talk of opposition unity in a mahagathbandhan.

Naveen exerted pressure on Gita
How did the Modi government end up with egg on its face after Gita Mehta, well known writer and sister of Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, declined to accept the Padma Shri this year?

The procedure for the Padma awards involves taking the consent of the awardee before announcing his or her name in the list that is released on Republic Day eve. It stands to reason then that the government must have sounded out Gita Mehta about the Padma award and only then included her name in the list.

So what happened to make her change her mind? BJP sources believe that her brother Naveen Patnaik pressured her to decline the award. The reason she gave hints at this. She said her acceptance would be misconstrued in election season.

Obviously, Patnaik felt that an award from the Modi government to his sister would not go down well with voters in Odisha as it would damage his credentials as a neutral political player who is equidistant from both the Congress and the BJP.

Odisha will have simultaneous polls for the assembly and Lok Sabha in April-May and Patnaik is fighting for a fifth term as chief minister. With the BJP snapping at his heels, he is being careful not to make any move that would compromise him politically.

His sister Gita Mehta seems to be sympathetic to his political compulsions, which is why she gave up the Padma award without an ounce of regret.

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