West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Friday she was “sorry” that Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar was not present at a meeting with the Election Commission of India on Thursday.

Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora had sought an explanation from the state government over the absence of Mr Kumar at a meeting in Kolkata on Thursday, where the poll panel discussed election preparations with senior officials.

“Rajeev Kumar is working as the city police commissioner for over three years and he is now on leave. If the CEC says so, I am sorry for that, Ms Banerjee said when asked about the entire episode.

Source said during Friday’s meeting with the chief secretary and home secretary, there was a strict directive from the commission to remove Mr Kumar from the post.

An 1989-batch IPS officer, Mr Kumar had replaced Surajit Kar Purkayastha as Kolkata commissioner in January 2016.

“The ECI has no idea about why the city police commissioner remained absent. We have sought an explanation from the controlling officer of the police commissioner in this matter,” Mr Arora said.

Asked about the reason behind Mr Kumar’s absence from the meeting, Mr Arora said somebody told him that it was the officer’s birthday.

The commission had last month directed all state governments to transfer officials posted in their home districts and those who have spent three years in a post in the past four years.

It is usual for the poll panel to issue such directions ahead of the Lok Sabha or assembly polls to ensure that officials do not interfere in the election process in any way and the exercise remains free and fair


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