With Eight Police Chiefs in 40 Months, Law and Order in UP is a Game of Chance

MADE TO ORDER: Policemen in Varanasi watch as a boy makes dosas. Credit: Lyle Vincent/Flickr CC 2.0

MADE TO ORDER: Policemen in Varanasi watch as a boy makes dosas. Credit: Lyle Vincent/Flickr CC 2.0

Lucknow: Uttar Pradesh may be notorious for its poor law and order, but all that its political masters have been doing in the name of “corrective measures” has been to change the state’s police chief every few months. There have thus been eight DGPs in the past 40 months, prompting a public interest litigation in the Supreme Court on the matter.

The reason for this frequent change of guard at the state police headquarter in Lucknow is not too far to seek. Undeniably, it is attributable to none other than the state’s “super chief minister” Mulayam Singh Yadav, who chooses to run the gigantic state like a private fiefdom, where his personal whims and fancies trump whatever objective criteria exists for appointments and transfers.

Mulayam’s son Akhilesh, whom he had installed as Chief Minister on March 15, 2012 , was rarely given a free hand on most vital issues including key appointments. Akhilesh does sometimes form a part of the in-house consultation coterie that comprises Mulayam’s cousin and the party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, Ram Gopal Yadav, younger brother and UP’s multi-portfolio minister  Shiv Pal Yadav, powerful minister Azam Khan and Mulayam’s close confidante Anita Singh, a 1990 batch IAS officer, entrusted with the key portfolio of principal secretary to the CM.

It was the dominance of this Mulayam coterie that had led some insiders to term UP as a state with “five-and-a-half” chief ministers of which Akhilesh was jokingly referred to as “half”.

Defiance to compliance

When Akhilesh commenced his innings, it was understandable for the father to be handpicking ministers as well as officials about whom the son  – a novice in matters of governance – was naturally quite clueless. With the passage of time, it was expected that the son would gain experience and knowledge to make his own choices – if not for anything else then for the sake of ushering in a new era under his leadership. After all, it was the 38-year-old leader’s grit in thwarting the entry of mafia don-turned-politician D.P. Yadav into the political fray as an SP nominee that turned the tide for the party at the 2012 state assembly election. Clearly, Akhilesh alone was responsible for taking the SP’s mandate to unprecedented heights. In fact, by putting his foot down against the wishes of his father and uncle Shivpal, both of whom were pushing D.P. Yadav, Akhilesh demonstrated his determination to change the image of the party that was earlier better known for unabashedly patronising outlaws.

Far from reinforcing that spirit, however, young Akhilesh could never again display the same mettle. No sooner that he assumed the hot seat, he was ready to buckle under the pressure of multiple uncles and of course his all-pervading father, who could not resist the temptation of back-seat driving. This takeover was  justified by the coterie as a means to overcome the poor young man’s “inexperience”.

Even though law and order was never the forte of any SP regime, most matters relating to key appointments in the police were dealt with largely by Mulayam, often guided by Anita Singh who heads the CM’s personal secretariat. It is another matter that in all these years she had not succeeded in enjoying the confidence of the Chief Minister, who, more often than not, would simply end up signing on the dotted line okayed by her and his father.

Appointment of short-term DGPs was also an outcome of this vicious nexus, which virtually kept the Chief Minister out of the loop. Many retired top cops believe that short stints at the top leave the uniformed force – the world’s largest single police force under a unified command – rudderless as subordinates stop taking their chief seriously, which in turn adversely affects the chain of command.

That considerations other than merit have played a role in the eight top police appointments made over the past 40 months of the Akhilesh government is apparent from the rapid turnover itself.

Musical chairs

Mulayam picked up 1977 batch IPS AC Sharma for the top cop’s job barely four days after Akhilesh was coronated. A highly reputed 1976 batch officer, Atul, who had been brought in as DGP by the Election Commission to ensure free and fair elections in the state, was promptly shunted away to the most innocuous job of Commandant General, Home Guards. Sharma was not a patch on Atul on any count, specially uprightness, but that is what became his USP in the eyes of Mulayam. And it was no wonder that he held the office for a full year – something rare for DGPs in the country’s most populous state.

After Sharma it was back to a 1976 batch IPS officer, Devraj Nagar, whose appointment came as a surprise since he was rated as an honest officer. “But the fact that he was quite ready to bend to the whims of his political masters paid dividends”, observed a veteran policeman, and he remained on the coveted chair for eight months from April 2013 to December 2013.

After Nagar came a 1978 batch officer Rizwan Ahmad, who had only two months to superannuate. However, his appointment suited the ruling dispensation politically as he was the first Muslim to head the UP police since 1971, when Islam Ahmed had donned the mantle. Ahmad was succeeded by a 1979 batch IPS officer A.L. Banerjee, whose connections with the controversial Sahara family allegedly came in handy to grab the top job. After all, the Sahara-Mulayam affinity was no secret specially after the SP chief openly demonstrated it on the day of Akhilesh’s swearing-in ceremony after which he chose to skip the Governor’s traditional ‘at-home’ and instead drove straight to Subroto Roy’s private estate where a grand feast awaited him in the company of Bollywood jamboree. Despite his physical incapacities on account of a kidney transplant, Banerjee lasted a full 10 months.

A tug-of war ensued thereafter with four officers – Arun Kumar Gupta (1977), Ranjan Dwivedi (1979),  Arvind Jumar Jain (1979) and Jag Mohan Yadav (1983) – in the fray. While Jag Mohan Yadav was clearly Mulayam’s first choice, he had to give in to saner advice and avoid the supersession of officers senior to him by up to seven years.

Request withdrawn

Gupta was appointed, even though he was due to retire exactly 30 days later. Known as an officer of integrity, Gupta’s name was recommended for a 6-month extension, which got the Union Home ministry’s approval as well. However, before his extension could get the final nod from the Prime Minister, the UP government chose to abruptly withdraw its own request. The grapevine has it that Gupta’s name was pulled back because an extension to him would have jeopardised the fate of  Arvind Kumar Jain, who used his links with a powerful SP leader close to Mulayam . Even as Mulayam’s ultimate agenda was pretty loud and clear – to secure Jag Mohan Yadav’s appointment as the first ever Yadav DGP of UP, he conceded to the pressures Jain managed to build from within the ruling party. Jain got the job for two months after which he also managed a three month extension .

Eventually, the “Yadav DGP” dream was realised with Jag Mohan Yadav’s installation on the hot seat on July 1. His tenure ends in the next six months, after which the next tug-of-war will begin. An upright 1979 batch officer Ranjan Dwivedi, who was not only four years senior to Jag Mohan Yadav but also far more accomplished, would still remain in the race. Whether he gets the coveted job is another matter.