Wily IPS officer Bhatt is a threat to Narendra Modi

Last Updated : 23 October 2011, 17:14 IST
Last Updated : 23 October 2011, 17:14 IST

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Call him what you may, depending on which side you are on, but 1988 batch IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt has thrust himself on the centre stage for taking on one of the most controversial and powerful politicians. An IIT alumni and amongst the few Gujarati direct recruits in the civil services, Bhatt has accused Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi of having issued illegal orders to go slow on rioters.

Modi hit back recently after the officer was arrested for allegedly coercing a junior colleague to file an affidavit supporting his claims against the chief minister. And after spending 17 days at the Sabarmati central jail, Bhatt walked out free on bail recently, determined and resolute that he will not give up.

Bhatt began grabbing the headlines from 2009 onward when he first decided to file the explosive affidavit in the apex court. Many of his contemporaries at that time questioned the timing and reason of filing his affidavit. From 2002 to 2009 Bhatt remained on peripheral postings like the Principal of  SRP Training School, an assignment he never took up. His last active posting was in 2002 in the intelligence department, which gave him the opportunity to be privy to information about the 2002 Godhra and post-Godhra riots.

When many of his critics questioned him why he decided to break his silence after seven long years of the infamous Gujarat riots, Bhat’s answer would be that he was not offered a platform. “I was never summoned by any commission, nor agency where I could spill out the truth and share the information that I had available with me, so the best way was to approach the apex court,’’ Bhatt said.

He said he had started sending out feelers since 2004 that he wanted to be cross-examined by the commission, but never filed an affidavit. When the Nanavati Commission finally called Bhatt earlier this year, it set a loaded cannon loose.

Modi’s meeting

He spoke about Modi’s meeting, about how Amit Shah tried to tutor him before he gave a statement to the SIT probing the post-Godhra riots and how Modi had misused the secret service fund of the intelligence branch to undermine dancer Mallika Sarabhai’s riot petition in the Supreme Court in 2002.

Many of Bhat’s colleagues, former and present, hold him to be on the wrong side of the law. His supporters call him a whitleblower, but on his part, Bhat says that hs has just been performing his duties as any serving officer would. “Well, I just call myself a serving officer one who believes in being by the truth and wanting to perform the duties assigned to him. Even if that means taken head on with those who are in power and authority. My detractors are free to call me whatever they want to,’’ he Bhatt. Some of his colleagues don’t trust him. "He is highly intelligent, confident and knowledgeable, but very misdirected,” said a senior police officer. Many admir him for being a fitness freak who runs 15 kms everyday.

Going to the extent of saying that he was ashamed of being called an officer of the Gujarat cadre, Bhatt said: “This feeling came after the 2002 Gujarat riots episode and under the present regime,’’ said Bhatt. He alleged that there were also attempts to subvert justice and that is what any serving IPS officer should be ashamed of.

Once known to be a close associate of former Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, Bhatt has not only managed to shed that image but is now being seen by many as someone who is being propped by the opposition Congress.

Bhatt clearly is a picture in contrast. In 2003 when he was posted as head of the Sabarmati jail he introduced landmark reforms for the prison inmates. A near-riot broke out in the jail where prisoners refused their morning tea and snacks and later, six convicts slashed their wrists demanding that Bhat be brought back. Contrast this with the allegations against him of being named in custodial death and fake narcotic cases.

The Facebook account of the flamboyant Deputy Inspector General of Police introduces him as “IGP at the Indian Police Service” — a promotion that has been long overdue and may not come easily. It is not that he has rubbed just the Modi government the wrong way. He stayed superintendent of police without a promotion for over a decade till 2007. “The number of criminal cases and departmental inquiries he has faced through various political regimes made him ineligible for timely promotions,’’ said a former IPS officer of the Gujarat cadre. This at a time when all his batchmates are already IGPs.

Bhatt was then the longest serving intelligence officer in the branch handling internal security of the state, the international border, vital installations, and VVIP security, including that of the chief minister. Bhatt’s former boss R B Sreekumar calls him “very efficient and intelligent”. “He told me he had good access to the chief minister and Amit Shah and that the latter was among his sources of information on the BJP,” says Sreekumar. Perhaps that’s what makes him privy to the inner dealings within the Modi government and perhaps that is what makes him a potent threat to  Narendra Modi.

Published 23 October 2011, 17:14 IST

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