Pinarayi Vijayan's choice for Kerala DGP has raised eyebrows
When the Kerala government appointed Anil Kant as the state's new DGP, many eyebrows were raised. The 1988 batch IPS officer from Delhi, who succeeds Loknath Behera, was picked by Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan from among a shortlist of three officers recommended by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The other two contenders were B. Sandhya, a 1988 batch IPS officer and chief of the state's fire and rescue department, and 1987 batch officer Sudheesh Kumar, who heads the vigilance and anti-corruption wing.
When the UPSC shortlisted the three officers on June 24, sections of the state media had speculated that Vijayan would go for B. Sandhya as DGP. She has completed 30 years in service and enjoys a clean record. She is considered to be a proactive police officer and is also an award-winning writer. Kumar, her senior, had attracted some controversy after his daughter allegedly beat up his driver in June 2018, apparently over a trivial issue.
So why did the chief minister prefer a relatively low-profile officer for the police top job when he could have set a precedent by appointing a woman officer as DGP of Kerala? Political observers say Vijayan had a very comfortable five years with Behera and backed him thoroughly. He probably did not want a police chief who could have exceeded the political brief. Just four days after he took over as chief minister in May 2016, Vijayan had removed then DGP T.P. Senkumar. But his government had to reinstate the officer following a Supreme Court order. "Behera had excellent relations with the chief minister. He is among the few people who could visit the CM's home without an invitation. The CM even hosted a lunch for the retiring DGP on June 30," says a senior police official.
Vijayan is also thought to have taken the opinion of serving additional DGPs regarding their potential chief. Kant, who was the road safety commissioner of the state, will be DGP till end-January 2022, but he may get an extension for two years. If that happens, both Sandhya and Kumar will lose the chance to becoming DGP.
In May this year, the state government had appointed Tomin J. Thachankary as DGP (investigations) in the state human rights commission. His tenure will end in July 2023. Thachankary did not make it to the UPSC final shortlist for the post of DGP due to controversies. He faces a disproportionate assets case.
In the past, the DGP's post in Kerala has been mired in controversies. They have often remained silent executioners of government agenda or even had subordinates dictating terms in case they were politically not well-connected. For instance, K.S. Balasubramanian, who was DGP from August 2012 to May 2015 during the time of Oommen Chandy as CM, was considered 'weak' as his subordinates were more politically connected.
But outgoing DGP Behera had established great equations with Vijayan and remained a trouble shooter during his tenure. "Behera changed the constitution of the police management in Kerala. He strengthened the police infrastructure. Many may not like him, but he delivered for the police. That's why he struck a great rapport with the chief minister," says a senior police officer. The state government is going to appoint Behera as managing director of Cochin International Airport Ltd.