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Rajeev Kumar, the top cop in the middle of CBI vs Mamata Banerjee storm

The West Bengal government says Rajeev Kumar's integrity cannot be questioned. CBI, however, is not so sure.

Rajeev Kumar, the top cop in the middle of CBI vs Mamata Banerjee storm
IANS Photo

In a controversy laced with political overtures, the Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) and the West Bengal government have grabbed national spotlight for the ongoing tussle over Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. While CBI has said that Kumar did not pay heed to its notices for questioning in connection with a chit fund scam, Mamata Banerjee has fired back saying that the central government is using CBI to unfairly target the top cop.

Accusations have been aplenty. And from both the central as well as West Bengal government.

In the midst of the entire storm - one that has seen political battle lines being clearly drawn, Kumar's name has been reverberating through the country. But who is Kumar and why has he emerged as a focal point between the CBI vs Mamata feud?

For starters, Kumar - who originally hails from UP - is reportedly close to the West Bengal CM and has worked his way up to earn her trust. A 1989 batch IPS officer of West Bengal, Kumar was appointed Kolkata Police Commissioner in 2016 on the back of his reputation of being a tough cop. Previously the Commissioner of Police at the Bidhannagar Police Commissionerate and Special Task Force chief under Kolkata Police, Kumar made his mark when he cracked the 2001 abduction case in which Parthapratim Roy Burman - the owner of the footwear company - had been kidnapped.

Kumar, a computer science graduate from IIT Roorkee, is believed to have also led successful operations against jihadi threats in Kolkata in the early years of the new millennium.

While he may have several achievements to his credit, there are also several allegations against Kumar. CBI's interim chief M Nageshwar Rao has said that there is evidence that Kumar destroyed evidence in the  Rose Valley and Saradha Ponzi scams. Kumar was appointed as the head of the SIT set up by the West Bengal government in 2012 to probe the multi-crore-rupee Rose Valley and Saradha Chit Fund scam. CBI alleges that amidst the investigation headed by Kumar, two very important evidence - a red diary and a pendrive - went missing.

It is in connection with this that a CBI team had visited Kumar's residence last Sunday which eventually opened up the floodgates of allegations. Mamata, who has been on a dharna since Sunday night, has said that the integrity of Kumar cannot be questioned and that he is a workaholic. "The Kolkata Police Commissioner is among the best in the world. His integrity, bravery and honesty are unquestioned," she had said before proceeding to accuse the Modi government of trying to intimidate her.

The BJP has hit back hard saying that Mamata Banerjee is running scared and is obstructing a completely justified CBI inquiry. "It was after the Supreme Court’s direction in 2013 that an inquiry began (into the chit fund scams). If Mamata ji is so fearless, why is she opposing it? What is she so scared of? Only those who steal are afraid," union minister Dharmendra Pradhan had said on Monday.

Even as charges continue to flow freely, there is a suspicion that Mamata could use the entire controversy to cement herself as the prominent face of the Opposition. As for Kumar, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered that he appears before CBI and "faithfully" cooperate with the agency in the investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam probe. The apex court said Kumar will appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation at Shillong in Meghalaya. The top court has also said that no coercive step may be taken against Kumar during the course of the investigation.

CJI Ranjan Gogoi, meanwhile, has sought Kumar's response on the charge that he tampered with electronic evidence and that the SIT he headed gave CBI doctored materials.