The Big Fight: Bassi versus Kejriwal
When I heard about a month ago that there is an opinion in Delhi that favours toppling the AAP government, I argued with myself that this can’t be true. Delhi Police Commissioner BS Bassi’s increasingly aggressive tone vis-à-vis the AAP, however, does make me wonder whether I may be wrong after all.
Unusually for a police officer, who is supposedly bound by service rules, Bassi has been passing comments which amount to political attacks against an elected government. I can’t recall the last time a police chief did this in any state.
As chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal could have avoided the cuss Hindi word he used in a TV interview to describe police personnel. Having said that, those of us born and raised in Delhi know it to be a part of a lexicon where such words exist, both in a generic and negative sense, as synonym for a variety of ethnic, religious and professional groups.
But it is curious that Bassi has been commenting on what was a passing reference in a larger interview almost day after day while claiming that policemen are trained to ignore what is not palatable to them. Why talk about it then?
And one couldn’t help but wonder what is going on when a constable - yes, a constable -- in Delhi Police went to court against Delhi’s chief minister! This is another first in this country.
Bassi’s latest gem takes the cake. He says it would be “very unfortunate” if the Delhi Police come under the Delhi government. What was his reason? He feels that “local vested interests” would come into play, and cites his experience in Goa and Puducherry.
This is truly bizarre. Since when have serving police officers begun arguing on modes of governance? Is it Bassi’s case that “local vested interests” - by which he must be referring to politicians - exist only in small states?
What about Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat and Maharashtra? Surely, vested interests are there everywhere. Why not then place the police force in every state under the direct control of the central government?
And if “vested interests” are present in Goa, was Manohar Parrikar, a former chief minister and now India’s defence minister, its part and parcel? And has Parrikar ceased to be a “vested interest” after moving to Delhi? Conversely, was Narendra Modi, now the prime minister, a part of “vested interests” when he was in Gujarat as the chief minister?
This simply defies logic. I have known senior and respected IPS officers who have held sensitive assignments and who, as friends, shared the various problems they faced -- and how they stood up to or worked around them. They too had their opinions as citizens - which Bassi is also entitled to. But I don’t remember the last time a serving police officer held forth views on what type of governance is better suited to a state.
In his latest interview, Bassi has also chosen to give unsolicited advice on what areas the AAP government should focus on! I simply cannot think of a situation - good or bad - when the police chief of Tamil Nadu tells Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, that too publicly, what she must do and how.
Indeed, Bassi’s tone and tenor provide the first reason why Delhi Police should come under the control of the Delhi government, whether it is with the AAP, BJP or Congress.
Bassi’s comments have an air of mystery about them, more so in the context of the ongoing war between Kejriwal’s government and Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung. Would a police officer go public thus, unless he is confident that no harm will come to him?
One of his junior colleagues has even said that Kejriwal is fomenting disobedience in police. Something is surely brewing, and it is not good for democracy.
(M.R. Narayan Swamy is Executive Editor in IANS. The views expressed are personal.)