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Bharati Ghosh joins BJP, but former Bengal IPS officer’s chequered career at odds with saffron party’s stated stand on corruption

On Monday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) inducted Bharati Ghosh, a former police officer, into its ranks in West Bengal. Ghosh, an officer once much favoured by the Trinamool Congress government and leadership, has had a chequered career that is worth recounting in some detail to make a larger point about the party that still controls the Centre.

Ghosh was an officer of the West Bengal police service who went on to serve in peacekeeping missions. After the Trinamool Congress came to power in 2011, she was promoted to the Indian Police Service and became the superintendent of police (SP) of West Midnapore district, a post in which she remained for five years. As the SP of a district, where the Communist Party of India (Maoist) had become very powerful, Ghosh was involved in the joint Centre-state operations against the Maoists initiated by the Trinamool Congress government. The operation proved spectacularly successful, especially after the Maoist leader Kishanji was killed in a shootout with the security forces.

In 2017, she was finally transferred out of the district and put in command of the 3rd Battalion of the State Armed Police. Soon after, at the fag end of the year, and possibly consequentially, she sought and was granted voluntary retirement. In 2018, following a complaint of malfeasance against Ghosh, the Calcutta High Court ordered an investigation.

File image for former Bengal IPS officer Bharati Ghosh who was inducted into BJP. PTI

File image for former Bengal IPS officer Bharati Ghosh who was inducted into BJP. PTI

In pursuance of this judicial directive, the state police began an investigation, in the course of which, the police claimed, several incriminating pieces of evidence were unearthed against Ghosh relating to extortion and illegal gold transactions using demonetised currency. Raids unearthed Rs 2 crore in cash from a flat allegedly owned by a close friend of Ghosh and her husband MAV Raju and Rs 2.4 crore from a flat in Kolkata, the ownership of which was being verified. Raids at the residences of Ghosh and police officers close to her also led the police to tablets, pen drives, hard disks, 50 land sale deeds involving transactions of around Rs 300 crore and, in a somewhat bizarre twist, 57 sealed bottles of imported scotch; 1.1 kg of gold was reportedly found in Ghosh’s bank locker as well.

At least two FIRs were registered against Ghosh and six of her ‘associates’, including police officers, were arrested. Ghosh, however, could not be found and police began a hunt for her while Ghosh issued audio-tapes denouncing the ‘witch-hunt’ against her. Her husband was implicated in these cases too and was arrested in August 2018 after the Calcutta High Court rejected a plea for anticipatory bail. Ghosh, however, has not been arrested till now.

There is a hypothesis that purportedly explains Ghosh’s precipitous fall from grace. Some claim, on the basis of information supposedly provided by Trinamool insiders, that Ghosh was not really close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as is commonly believed, but to Mukul Roy, who was the Trinamool second-in-command during the period when she was living a charmed career. It is unusual in the extreme for an officer to be posted as SP in the same district for five years, for instance. When Roy was for all practical purposes drummed out of the party and subsequently joined the BJP, the hypothesis goes, Ghosh lost her ‘protection’ and became just another police officer. Of Roy, more in a bit.

Ghosh and her lawyer claim that all the stuff the police found was planted by them, while Ghosh’s partisans and Opposition parties in Bengal claim that the Trinamool government was persecuting Ghosh. The Congress and Communist Party of India (Marxist) point out that Ghosh was close to the Trinamool leadership and harbours secrets, which is why she is now being hounded. All of these arguments miss the point. Arresting someone is hardly the most logical way of protecting secrets, which could then easily be revealed when the cases go to court. As for the witch-hunt bit, surely that is for the courts to decide. What made Ghosh run, when, as a former police officer with a high enough profile, she could have submitted to the enquiries and trusted the judiciary to vindicate her?

As things stand, however, the Supreme Court is slated to hear Ghosh’s anticipatory bail plea on 11 February. We all know just about enough of the law to know that there can be no presumption of guilt — a person, in other words, is innocent until proven guilty. Thus, too, for Ghosh. That issue of presumption does not necessarily hold good in politics, an arena where the dynamics of public perception are radically different from the rules that shape determinations in the arena of the judicial process.

The BJP keeps rattling on and on about how practically every party in India and their leaders are corrupt. Of late it has turned its light on Mamata, presuming, somewhat risibly, that it can thereby make serious inroads into Bengal in the impending Lok Sabha elections. That nothing could be further from the truth is demonstrated by the fact that in its desperate attempt to breach fortress Bengal, the BJP has inducted into its ranks two former Trinamool ‘insiders’ over whose heads hang no haloes, but huge question marks. One is the recently recruited Ghosh and the other is the inestimable Mukul Roy.

There can be no doubt that if the Trinamool Congress illegally benefited from the Saradha Ponzi scheme, and the others that were later uncovered, Roy had to be at the heart of the deals that were putatively struck. He was, after all, Mamata’s second-in-command and practically ran the party on a day-to-day basis. He was the machine man. Along with a host of other Trinamool leaders, Roy, too, was questioned by the CBI in the Saradha scam. Yet, when he joined the BJP he just went off-radar. He was granted immunity by the ruling party which micro-manages the CBI because he had become one of them while other leaders are still being investigated.

So, when the BJP’s sanctimonious leadership preaches homilies on corruption and honesty and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s relentless war on corruption, people have in the past five years or so figured out how to react: don’t even listen, far from believe.

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Updated Date: Feb 06, 2019 15:57:02 IST

Updated: February 6, 2019 — 11:52 am
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