National Security Advisor Ajit Doval came to the Centre's rescue once again at a time when the centrally-managed Delhi Police was facing flak for failing to control three-day-long bloody riots in the National Capital.
Doval's involvement, though unique, failed to surprise anyone as the riots came as a major embarrassment to the Central Government, which was entertaining a foreign dignitary in the National Capital, under full glare of the western media.
And yet, the capital burned for three days before the violence was curbed completely. The Delhi Police, not only faced accusations of inaction but also of complicity as mobs went on rampage in the usual sensitive areas, which should have been secured foremost with so much as a whiff of communal disturbance around.
Immediately after US President Donald Trump embarked on his return flight, 75-year old Doval swooped down on the Delhi Police headquarters and undertook a late night tour of the riot-hit areas. Then again on Wednesday, the former Intelligence Bureau chief visited the affected areas, including Jaffrabad and Seelampur, where he met police officers and gave them necessary directives, besides meeting leaders of different communities to assuage the tension.
Doval met people from all communities as he did during his Jammu and Kashmir visit after abrogation of Article 370.
He used the medium of religious places to appeal for peace and harmony, walked through serpentine lanes, and reassured scared residents; the people obviously responded. Doval was the first high ranking official to have reached out to them and give assurance of peace and security.
This was not the first time that Doval, India's national security tsar, who is considered the prime minister's right hand, was asked to step beyond his traditional role and intervene in internal security and law and order problems. He had camped in Jammu and Kashmir for more than a fortnight after the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 in August last year. Doval was also considered to have played an instrumental role in facilitating foreign dignitaries' tour in Jammu and Kashmir after the state was stripped of its special status and statehood.
However, his visit did raise some questions as the PMO's lieutenant was essentially coming down to clean up a mess that was squarely the responsibility of Home Minister Amit Shah. His remark of "jo hua so hua (What happened has happened)" to a group of riot-affected people on Thursday hasn't gone down well either with Opposition leaders accusing the NSA of trying to "whitewash" the role of perpetrators.
Doval is known for his hands-on approach and is considered a close confidante of the prime minister and his go-to man for any crisis situation. The rationale behind his deployment can lie in the fact that neither Modi nor Shah enjoy the same credibility among the Muslim populace as a neutral bureaucratic figure like Doval would. In fact, Shah had made acerbic speeches about those protesting against Citizenship Amendment Law during the course of the recently concluded elections.
If anything, the move could have been a snub to outgoing police commissioner Amulya Patnaik under whom the Delhi Police was seen as rudderless, and carried a bad reputation in previous instances of violence during the protests in Jamia Millia Islamia and the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The police was also seen twiddling its thumbs when a shooter shot at a student outside Jamia Millia Islamia and another showed up at Shaheen Bagh.
Doval, on the other hand, is perceived to be a man of action.
His record as an IPS officer also reinstates his credentials to quickly respond to such challenges. The Kerala Cadre IPS officer of the 1968 batch had played a crucial role in suppressing the infamous Thalassery riot of 1972, which was the tenth major communal riot the country had witnessed and the first one for Kerala.
According to The Week, Doval was sent to Thalassery in the heat of the riot and he managed to calm the situation within a week of his arrival.
This time too, Doval appeared on field first on Tuesday night and the instances of violence died down by Wednesday when he made his second trip to the riot hit areas. He not only made sure to mention to the people (and the media) that he was their on the prime minister's instructions, but also to not steamroll the police force publically, who was facing severe criticism for its failure.
"Police is working hard. Only some criminals were involved in this. One should try resolving issues and not increasing them. There were incidents earlier but today it is calm. Locals want peace. We have full faith there will be peace," he told the people on Wednesday.
"People were doubting the capabilities and intentions of the Delhi Police. This needs to addressed. People need to trust the man in uniform," Doval told NDTV.
This is when multiple media reports have indicated that the home ministry was of the view that the Delhi Police failed to appropriately utilise the central paramilitary forces made available to the cops.
Later Doval presented his on-the-spot assessment of the situation to the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by the prime minister about the steps taken to quell the violence and restore normalcy in areas under the grip of communal riots over the amended citizenship law.
Besides the prime minister, the CCS, the country's top-most body on strategic affairs, comprises Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Shah, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
With inputs from agencies