The West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department (CID) on the evening of Thursday, February 1, raided the home of someone who was once in their own ranks.
It was the latest in a series of blows for Bharati Ghosh, the Harvard-educated UN peacekeeper-turned-Bengal top cop, who was once considered less a policewoman and more a member of the ruling Trinamool Congress in Bengal.
Here's an account of how Ghosh, once considered very close to Banerjee, went from being her "daughter" and "bhalo meye" — good girl — to her bete noire.
The official website of the West Midnapore website for cops still lists Ghosh as the superintendent of police, although she has resigned from the job. It also says she is an MBA from the Jadavpur University in Kolkata and an LLB from the Burdwan University in Burdwan, West Bengal.
And this was just the beginning. Ghosh studied International Marketing and Psycho-Analytical Theory at Harvard University's summer school. She then won the Chevening Gurukul Fellowship of the UK government and studied at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science.
Over the next few years, she served the United Nations in various capacities at a number of locations, including Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia and Somalia. She was also a UN Commander of a multi-brigade force at Kosovo, the experience which she would later use to combat Left-wing extremism in West Bengal. She won six UN medals during her stint with the global body.
Simultaneous rise to power
Bharati started working with the West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department in 2011, the same year the Trinamool Congress finally managed to unseat the Left from power and Mamata Banerjee became chief minister.
Banerjee transferred Ghosh to the Maoist-infested West Midnapore district, which had been witnessing Left-wing extremism since 2008. Ghosh, working as the superintendent of police (SP) there, used the experience she had gathered during her UN days to crack down on the Maoists.
While Maoist leader Koteswar Rao was killed in an encounter, younger Maoists were lured away from violence with assurances of a normal life and reintroduced into the mainstream. Interestingly, some young Maoists were even said to have been inducted into the Trinamool Congress!
Ghosh may have brought the Maoist menace under control, but Banerjee shared the credit. After all, she had unseated the Left Front government that had fed the Left-Wing extremism for years, say her supporters.
Interestingly, some political rivals claimed the police were cracking down on students and dissenters who were protesting against the Trinamool Congress. Some others claimed that the police and local criminals were in cahoots.
Here's one Twitter reaction
Blurring of boundaries
However, Banerjee never shied away from giving Ghosh her due credit either. The two shared the dais often as West Midnapore — locally referred to as Jungle Mahal — became more peaceful.
Political rivals, however, said Ghosh and Banerjee shared much more than just a few platforms. They said Ghosh had become an insider of the Trinamool. Some even claimed the SP and the chief minister shared secrets that not even other Trinamool leaders knew of. Ghosh had all but become a primary member of the party, they said.
These rumours seemed to gain ground when the Election Commission (EC) received complaints that Ghosh was intimidating poll officials during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and the West Bengal Assembly elections of 2016. The EC would even remove Ghosh from her duties during the elections.
Here's West Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh's reaction to the move:
However, this did not diminish Banerjee's admiration for the top cop: Ghosh was awarded the Chief Minister's medal for Commendable Service in 2014.
As time went on, political rivals said Banerjee's close confidant Mukul Roy, who had been with the Trinamool since its founding days, also grew close with Ghosh. Roy, it may be noted, was the man to whom Banerjee had bequeathed the post of Union railway minister when she won the 2011 Assembly elections and became West Bengal's chief minister.
Resignations and rifts
However, Roy and Banerjee had grown apart since 2015, when the former's name surfaced in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam and then the Narada sting operation. Roy, who was continually being sidelined within the Trinamool, finally quit the party in November 2017 and joined the BJP.
This is believed to be one of the wedges that drove Banerjee and Ghosh apart. The West Bengal chief minister believed the top cop was behind Roy's departure from the party he had co-founded, speculated experts.
And then came reports that said Roy was building a strong voter base in Jungle Mahal with Ghosh's help. A local Trinamool leader apparently told Banerjee that Ghosh had helped the BJP increase its vote share in a byelection because the top cop was eyeing the saffron party's help to further her career and fulfil her ambitions.
As 2017 drew to a close, Banerjee transferred Ghosh to the post of commanding officer of a battalion of the State Armed Police in Barrackpore — a post considered insignificant when compared to her previous posting. Bharti Ghosh refused to join the posting and resigned.
She has since threatened to open her mouth "at the right time." This warning came in a WhatsApp group in mid-January this year. Then, towards the end of the month, she informed reporters that Trinamool leaders were looking to frame her in a false case to keep her mouth shut.
A few days later, the state CID raided Ghosh's home in the Netajinagar area of Kolkata. Apparently, a businessman had registered a complaint of extortion against some police officers in Jungle Mahal, and this had taken place when Ghosh was the SP. Speculations are already rife that this was the fake case Ghosh had talked about.
It remains to be seen where the matter goes from here.