Political ideologies take time to develop, particularly in communal parties. Many of today’s BJP stalwarts got their baptism in RSS shakhas or VHP camps. This route was followed not only by BJP cadres, but anyone attracted by the Hindutva ideology and keen on other professions where they could use this ideology.
Prabhu Chawla, senior journalist, former editor ‘ India Today’ and currently editor of ‘ New Indian Express’, Chennai, cut his teeth on Hindu ideology and the VHP’s communal politics and this had coloured his journalistic career and output throughout. But Chawla’s conversion from VHP hothead to senior journalist took place quite early in his life and when the change did take place, it came as no surprise.
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Satyapal Singh recently switched over from civil service ( police) to politics, and it seemed more like a hop, step and jump, albeit at a much later stage in his career as policeman. In fact, he held the key and much sought- after job of Mumbai’s police commissioner and was due for a promotion when he announced his intention to quit to join the BJP and enter electoral politics. While this might not have been a startling development for journalists and his colleagues in the police force, the common man is clearly taken aback. Discussing his future plans freely with the media, Singh initially said he had been approached by the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party. This was itself was a bit surprising because these two parties hate each other and have fought a bruising battle in the recent Delhi assembly elections.
Perhaps, the BJP offered a better deal and Singh is likely to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Meerut, a familiar territory.
Singh appears to have been a hot political ticket, it seems. What was impressive was the alacrity with which Maharashtra’s ruling coalition, the Congress- NCP relieved him of his official position, apart from the fact that the BJP and the AAP were ready to offer LS tickets. Home Minister R R Patil clarified there would be no notice period for Singh, who walked into the BJP party office the day after his resignation was accepted. Such a chivalrous gesture is rather unusual in Indian administrative services, though we would like to know exactly how Singh seems to have pleased his political bosses so much.
On a more serious note, the poll- eve political turmoil does not seem to have affected the Congress- NCP combine, for it does not seem to have stopped it from being so considerate to a senior police officer, who had spurned a promotion and a more senior position, not in order to take up a plum, private sector offer, but to join a rival political party.
There is always a cloud over senior bureaucrats, whose abrupt departure from a cushy job raises eyebrows and questions of propriety. Outstanding bureaucrat and former Cabinet Secretary D G Deshmukh retired from his job. The very next day, he walked into the House of Tatas to take up a brand new job with them, and there were several conflicts of interest with the government. Many of these must have been handled by Deshmukh himself and this led to intense speculation on what the Tatas had offered him.
Again, since Deshmukh joined Tatas the very next day after his retirement, would he now conduct the pending affairs with the government on various confidential matters? Deshmukh’s colleagues did not like this one bit and the All India Services demanded there should be an interim period between the time a senior government bureaucrat quit or resigned his job and took up a new job in the private sector.
In Singh’s case, the matter is more serious.
A senior police officer with the rank of a commissioner would be privy to high- level state secrets, on issues ranging from routine crime to cases of terrorism, high- level corruption charges, confidential files on senior bureaucrats and ministers, illegal foreign accounts held by VVIPs and so on. What would happen if Singh chose to pass along these files to his new political bosses? The BJP, led by Narendra Modi, would not observe the niceties of professional give- and- take and choose to behave like the former American FBI director Edgar Hoover, who held on to his position till death because the entire US government, starting with the President, was afraid of the secrets ( both official and personal) of every top political figure in the county Hoover was likely to spill. If Singh wants to play rough, he could do so with devastating effect.
The government’s awareness of this issue leaves much to be desired. The police hold information which could be misused for blackmail and endanger national security.
The top job with the police provides power, a decent salary and generous perks. It is also a public service, provided one push back images of the celluloid caricature of police officers (‘ Bulbul Pandey’) that pops up in the mind. But then, it appears the police themselves don’t mind, instead, they seem to be going overboard appreciating it and are happy to mingle freely with top stars and basking in mutual admiration.
Thanks to the Bollywood- police nexus, actor Salman Khan, who ought to have been in jail after the 2002 hit- and- run case, in which he allegedly ran over sleeping pavement dwellers on a Mumbai street and before that, the black buck hunt case in Rajasthan, walked hand- in- hand with the Mumbai Police, certain in the conviction that he was above the law. After all, Salman and other famous stars have provided entertainment at fundraisers for the police, so what is the fuss over a silly black buck or homeless persons sleeping on the city’s footpath? Singh and his ilk have enjoyed the company of filmstars and political leaders. This friendship could be consolidated further if Singh becomes a ‘ neta.’ Such a transformation would make the Mumbai Police unique, though not on the lines of Boston Legal, LA Law or NPD Blue.
In resigning from the police and joining a political party, Singh has neither enhanced his reputation nor that of the Mumbai Police. Minorities from Mumbai or Meerut, particularly Muslims, have nothing to look forward to, from Singhsaab MP. Thus far, they were harassed by the police.. Now it will likely come from a higher- up!