THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The race for the State Police Chief’s post has entered the final lap as the state government is set to announce the successor to Loknath Behera on Wednesday. Those vying for the post are Vigilance Director Sudesh Kumar, Road Safety Commissioner Anil Kant and Fire and Rescue Services Director General B Sandhya. They have been shortlisted by the Union Public Service Commission.
Though the government has so far played its cards close to the chest on who Behera’s replacement will be, sources said the balance is slightly tilted in favour of Sandhya. That no woman has hitherto adorned the top police job in the state and that her appointment would be in tune with the government’s progressive posturing are factors which give Sandhya an edge.
The 1988 batch officer is also said to have the patronage of some of the powerful politicians from the CPM Kannur lobby. An influential former leader, who is now eying a comeback, is learnt to have spoken to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the top leadership of the CPM about the advantages of assigning Sandhya the top job. Pinarayi had a good working relationship with Sandhya when he became the CM in 2016, but later it reportedly soured, especially during the probe into the attack on an actor in Kochi.
Regarding Sudesh Kumar, the most senior of the three, there are two hurdles that could come in his way to the post of the top cop. First is the pending criminal case wherein his daughter was accused of manhandling an orderly, while the second is a reported perception among CPM leaders that he had gone soft on UDF leaders accused of corruption ahead of the assembly polls. Sources said a section of CPM leaders are of the view that the 1987-batch officer had soft-pedalled the probe into corruption allegations levelled against certain UDF leaders. However, he enjoys the wholehearted support of a section of serving and former bureaucrats, which is evident from the fact that two former chief secretaries have been advocating his selection to the top police job.
Anil Kant, also from the 1988-batch, does not enjoy much political backing. But what makes him stand apart is that he enjoys the support of some of the most senior ADGPs in the state. Sources said the CM had recently sought the opinion of senior ADGPs about the next police chief and most of them unanimously suggested Kant’s name. One who thrives on anonymity, Kant has largely stayed away from controversies as well as histrionics. However, it remains to be seen whether that trait alone would help him make the cut, given that Pinarayi goes by his own playbook.