Rajiv Kumar, the former Kolkata police commissioner for whom Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna and defied Delhi, appears to be cornered as the week long grace period granted to him by the Supreme Court ends on May 24.
But instead of being arrested by the CBI, Rajiv could well become the CBI director and eventually - if lady luck keeps smiling at him - the National Security Advisor! A Governorship or two can also come his way.
Let’s face it that no court of law - however high - or law enforcement agency - however powerful - is going to decide the 1989-batch IPS officer’s fate which is hanging by a very fine thread today.
Rajiv’s fate will be decided tomorrow, Thursday May 23, by the outcome of the elections. Arrest, interrogation, suspension from service, imprisonment, humiliation and worse await him if Modi-BJP wins as the exit polls are predicting. But if Modi-BJP lose - a possibility which can’t be ruled out altogether - and Mamata is appointed the Prime Minister of India or even if her Trinamool Congress is a key component of the new government, then Rajiv will escape by the skin of his teeth and soar higher and higher.
A case as badly politicised as Rajiv’s will inevitably be decided by politics and its trademark byproduct – elections - and not by the law of the land. Mamata’s favourite cop – she publicly called Rajiv the best police officer in the world - is accused by the CBI of outright destroying or tampering with evidence allegedly linking Trinamool leaders to the Sarada chit fund scam.
CBI is desperate to arrest Rajiv because it thinks that he will break down during custodial interrogation and spill all the beans which would finish off the Trinamool politically to the great delight of the BJP which regards the West Bengal party as one of its principal enemies and stumbling block.
On May 17, after a protracted legal battle, Supreme Court permitted the CBI to arrest Rajiv but gave him a week’s time to get anticipatory bail. The CBI is biding its time until May 24 when Rajiv’s immunity ends and the high-profile cop is nothing but a sitting duck for the agency gunning for him at the behest of its political masters.
But all is not lost for Rajiv. At least not yet. In fact, he has a lot to look forward to. If Modi-BJP is routed tomorrow as it well might be, and Mamata becomes a central figure in the new regime, there would be no stopping Rajiv. One of Mamata’s first objectives would be to save Rajiv from the CBI’s clutch. If the BJP is evicted from power, the CBI director would be bluntly told to leave Rajiv alone. Period. Although it exposes the hollowness of our system, it’s really as simple and easy as that.
At present, Rajiv is not even in the zone of consideration to become the CBI director. He is far too junior. Moreover, he is not even empanelled. But all that can be tweaked and he can join the CBI as additional director who would call the shots with Mamata’s blessings reducing the present director to a figurehead before Rajiv acquires the seniority and meets all the other criteria to be officially appointed director.
Significantly, even Supreme Court judges seem to be in favour a political denouement in the CBI versus Rajiv Kumar case. Why else did their lordships take three months to lift the embargo on his arrest? Sometimes they appeared to be toying with Rajiv or playing a cat and mouse game with him. I was personally intrigued by their lordships kicking the can down the road. But now everything seems to be falling in place.
If the stars favour Mamata and she emerges as ‘king’ or kingmaker tomorrow, she will not only prove to be Rajiv’s saviour but is sure to pull out her other minions too from inside jails.
The two names which I can think of right away are journalist Suman Chattopadhyay and film producer Srikant Mohta. They are imprisoned in Cuttack after CBI arrested them for money laundering and receiving the proceeds of crime. Mamata rooted for Suman while she sat on a dharna for Rajiv.
In the event of Modi-BJP managing to retain power, the CBI will go all out to arrest Rajiv immediately. Rajiv, of course, has plenty of well wishers. Just the other day I was talking to a Muslim deputy commissioner of police in Kolkata. When Rajiv cropped up in our conversation, the DCP told me that whenever he said his namaz, he begged Allah to somehow save Rajiv from disgrace. I wonder if his prayer is going to work.
If Rajiv is eventually arrested and thrown into jail, it will be a replay of Mumbai police commissioner R. S. Sharma’s arrest in the Telgi scam. Sharma was taken into custody in 2003 two days after he retired as Mumbai police chief.
Subodh Jaiswal, who headed the SIT which nailed Sharma’s links with Abdul Karim Telgi, is today Director General of Police, Maharashtra.
(The author is a prize winning investigative journalist and commentator. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)