The controversial Delhi police commissioner Bhim Sain Bassi will retire on February 29. Narendra Modi and Home Minister Rajnath Singh will now exercise their prerogative to choose the next head of the city's police force, which reports directly to the central government. For nearly two years, Bassi has been facing confrontation from the Aam Aadmi Party with Arvind Kejriwal going on a dharna against him during his first stint as chief minister.
In the first year of Aam Aadmi Party's second term, the confrontation with the centre only worsened whether it was on the arrests of AAP MLAs or the appointment of an uncooperative police officer as the head of the Delhi Government's anti corruption bureau. Now, Bassi has been accused of inaction when unruly lawyers and other mobs attacked students, professors and journalists repeatedly in Patiala House Complex, which is just one kilometre away from the office of Modi and Rajnath Singh.
Bassi had lot of provocation as Kejriwal had used an extremely defamatory word for the Delhi police, which led to a police constable filing a defamation case against the chief minister. Kejriwal repeatedly complained against Bassi's attitude and refusal to share information. Bassi, who has an excellent mastery of the English language, was full of sarcasm both in his comments to the press and on the social media, taking a dig at his detractors. His aggression cost Bassi the post retirement job of Information Commissioner as the Congress strongly opposed his nomination. But Bassi is in the good books of Rajnath Singh and is expected to get a suitable position, where the opposition representative is not involved in the selection process.
But Rajnath Singh, who is battling the violent Jat agitation in Haryana, which surrounds Delhi in three of the four directions, has to ponder whether the union government should use Delhi police for its aggression against opposition - whether it is the Aam Aadmi Party government of Delhi or against institutions such as the Jawaharlal Nehru University. A politicised police force can be a double edged sword as it was shown in other states like West Bengal, where the police excesses and partiality of the CPM government were duplicated by Trinamool Congress government that now the CPM cadres are crying hoarse.
The Home Minister should not allow the Sangh Parivar outfits to dictate the way the police act, especially as the way a manipulated video was used to whip up frenzy over Kanhaiya Kumar. Social media comments made in a hurry by the home minister have also contributed to the ugliness of the situation. A home minister has to ensure that the facts are verified before making a comment, but Rajnath Singh's office relied on an apparently fake tweet of wanted terrorist Hafeez Sayeed to order strong police action in Jawaharlal Nehru University, which led to the slapping of sedition charges against Kanhaiya Kumar.
On the other hand, Prime Minister has refrained from making any comment on the incidents at Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Patiala House courts, opting for the other extreme of silence.
The new police commissioner will also have to ensure the temperatures are brought down, so that the message goes that Delhi Police will concentrate on maintaining law and order, rather than being seen as politically partisan. The departure of Bassi should also prompt Kejriwal to be less hostile to the Delhi police, which is an intrinsic part of governance in the national capital, which is uniquely divided between the central and state governments. Now, that would be a service to the citizens of Delhi.