Who is helping Bengal cop Rajeev Kumar elude the CBI?
With senior IPS officer Rajeev Kumar continuing to elude the CBI, which has been hunting for him for over two now in connection with the Saradha ponzi scam probe, the narrative seems to be turning to the possible backroom support that he may be having from within the ranks of the police and the administration which has helped him constantly stay a step ahead of the federal agency sleuths.
The Central Bureau of Investigation has used almost all stratagems at its command - from trying to track his mobile phones, summoning his wife and close aides and staff like drivers and personal assistants, to looking for him at hotels, guest houses, government offices, private medical college, bungalow - but the efforts have always ended in a "wild goose chase".
The CBI has been trying to take Kumar - the head of the Special investigation Team set up by the state government to probe the Saradha scam in 2013 - into custody for interrogation since September 13, when the Calcutta High Court withdrew its earlier order giving him interim protection from arrest.
The CBI has accused Kumar of destroying evidence in the case, in which a number of leaders, mostly from the ruling Trinamool Congress, were arrested or quizzed. The agency has also accused him of not handing over crucial documents to them after the Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe in 2014.
While retired IPS officers who have worked with Kumar vouch for his mastery over electronic surveillance techniques as also his sharp mind, the question that is being asked is whether Kumar has the backing from those in positions of authority.
Those who subscribe to such a theory point out that Kumar has held key positions like that of the city Police Commissioner, and is presently the Additional Director General of the CID. The crack officers and personnel of the police in West Bengal are generally posted to these two crucial wings.
The retired officers say because of his efficiency, brilliance, polite behaviour with the subordinate and the way he backed them all the time - Kumar has a very strong following in the force, and it could well be the case of a section of men in uniform "doing their bit" at a time their boss is passing through the biggest crises of his career.
In February, an attempt on the part of the CBI to quiz Kumar - then Kolkata Police Commissioner - had created an ugly situation.
As CBI officials showed up near Kumar's official residence on Loudon Street, they were stopped by city police personnel, who also forcibly took the federal probe agency officers to a police station.
CBI joint Director Pankaj Srivastava had then alleged the agency's offices in the city and his residence here was surrounded by state police personnel, following which central police force personnel were called on for the safety of officers and documents in the offices.
The issue escalated into a centre-state confrontation with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee holding a nearly 45-hour dharna in the city hub against the CBI move, calling it an attack on federalism and a"constitutional break-down".
State Congress president Somen Mitra is convinced Kumar is in the protection of the police and the administration and enjoying "government patronage".
"Take it from me, Rajeev Kumar is whiling his time in a state guest house under government patronage. Otherwise why shouldn't the CBI find such a well-known man? Now I find the CBI is trying to get help from the CRPF to nab him. This is ridiculous," Mitra told IANS.
"And when the government backs him, the police are bound to do the same. Police in our state are without backbone," he said.
CPI-M politburo member Mohammad Salim, however, was doubtful whether the CBI was at all "trying to find Kumar" and saw a nexus between Chief Minister Banerjee's Trinamool and the BJP, especially after her recent trip to Delhi where she met both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
"Well they have got the consolation prize - S.M.H. Mirza. This is the outcome of Modi-didi-Amit Shah meetings in Delhi. So now, the focus has been shifted from Saradha to Narada," Salim told IANS.
IPS officer Mirza was nabbed on Thursday in connection with the Narada sting footage scam where a number of Trinamool leaders were seen accepting wads of currency notes in exchange for a promise to dole out favours to a fictitious company.
Asked whether Kumar is getting the protection from the police, Salim said: "Well, it all depends of political clearance. Everyone is giving it, the police included."
But Trinamool core committee member Om Prakash Mishra said the CBI has been on the lookout for Kumar and "they should make contact".
"What I gather from the media is that he has exchanged mails with the CBI, he has been in touch with them. So I think, the CBI should answer why they haven't been able to nab him," Mishra told IANS.
"But I don't know whether they are are looking for him. CBI's track record is extremely poor. They are completely biased." IANS