Gupteshwar Pandey, the tough-talking Indian Police Service officer who stepped down as Bihar police chief late Tuesday night, hogged media limelight a day after and dropped hints about joining politics, asserting he is a 'free man' now and that contesting elections is not illegal.
The voluble former top cop of the state was chased and courted by national television through the day but what they succeeded in wangling out of him for now was that he is still not a political person, but being a 'free man' now, he could join politics if people want him to do so.
"I am now a free citizen of India like you. I am no longer the DGP. So, no service rules apply to me anymore. Thousands of people are coming from Buxar, Begusarai, Jehanabad, Aurangabad and other districts. I will take a decision after talking to them. Contesting elections is not illegal," he told journalists.
TV channels showed the 1987 batch IPS officer, who always sports a 'shikha', a knotted lock of hair at the back of his head symbolic of his Brahmin caste, tending to plants in his field and performing yoga at the portico of his official residence.
The assertive officer is often called 'Robinhood Pandey' by his band of supporters.
Pandey, who had come in for criticism from politicians in Maharashtra for strongly pleading for a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput's death case, however, said he was 'exasperated' at suggestions that he did so because of his political ambitions.
"I have spent more than three decades in (police) service and nobody can raise a finger at my professional integrity. But, in the recent past, thousands of calls and messages seeking to know when I am entering politics, which party I am planning to join.....left me exasperated," Pandey said.
When journalists persisted with questions about whether he has plans to join politics, he said, "I have neither joined any political party nor I am a political person till now. When I join (a party), I will tell all of you before I do.
"Politics is not the only way of serving society. One can work for society in different ways even without joining politics."
Pandey, a daring IPS officer known for his rustic mannerisms, had sought voluntary retirement in 2009 amid speculation that he wanted to contest the Lok Sabha election from Buxar.
It was rumoured that the Bharatiya Janata Party wanted to field him from the seat which has substantial Brahmin votes.
The saffron party changed its mind and did not field Pandey.
In a rare concession by a state government for an IPS officer who had voluntarily quit service, the ruling dispensation in Bihar sat over his resignation for nine months and then reinstated him.
The officer, at whose suggestion, the Bihar government had recommended a CBI probe into the death of Patna-born actor Sushant Singh Rajput in Mumbai, rubbished suggestions that his outspokenness in the case was in anyway linked to his political ambitions.
The officer had virtually waged an all-out war with Maharashtra politicians on national television in support of a CBI investigation in Rajput's death case, asserting that it alone could do 'justice' to the deceased actor.
In line of Shiv Sena fire, Pandey, who has a fan following among a section of the youth in Bihar, was unflappable, and declared he will do everything to get the actor justice.
The VRS request of Pandey, who would have retired in February 2021, was accepted by Governor Phagu Chauhan on Tuesday, the day he tendered his resignation.
"The Bihar DGP who was used for this defamation is being blatantly rewarded. His voluntary retirement says it all," said Maharashtra Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant in Mumbai, reacting to reports that Pandey could take the political plunge.
While a government officer has to give three months' notice before resigning, Pandey's resignation was accepted immediately, he said.
Shiv Sena Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut, with whom Pandey had locked horns over the issue of a CBI probe in Rajput's death case, also claimed the former Bihar DGP was being 'rewarded' for speaking against Mumbai and Maharashtra.
Pandey, who had said actress Rhea Chakraborty had no 'aukaat' (stature) to comment on Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's decision to recommend a CBI probe in the case, defended his statement.
"Someone who is an accused in the case and named in an FIR for hatching a conspiracy to kill Sushant Singh Rajput has no right to make any comment against a person who is occupying a constitutional post," Pandey said.
Bihar's ruling Janata Dal-United preferred silence on Pandey seeking voluntary retirement or his political ambition, ally BJP said everyone has the right to lead a social and political life in a democratic set up.
"Gupteshwar Pandey jee had joined the service on his own sweet will and has now opted for VRS. There is no scope left for a political party to make any suggestion about what he should do. He has every right to choose a political party or ideology he wants to pursue," state BJP spokesman Nikhil Anand said.