Rahul breaks security cordon - like father like son

March 28th, 2008 - 11:29 am ICT by admin  

By Maxwell Pereira
“Rahul Gandhi gives cops the slip in Naxal heartland”, read the headline recently. That was soon after his visit to a tribal village in a Maoist-infested area in Orissa when the MP, who is scion of the extremely vulnerable Gandhi family, ducked out of the Koraput SP’s security cordon and melted into the night, accompanied by only a few personal SPG (Special Protection Group) guards. His father Rajiv Gandhi was famous for doing such things, and his grandmother too. Very adept at playing to the masses, the crowds loved Indira Gandhi chiding the police at almost every public gathering she addressed: “Aap police-wale hat jai-ye… kyon hamaare aur hamare Janta ke beech aate hain aap? Matt kijiye janta ko tung!” (You policemen, move aside! Why do you come between me and my people? Stop harassing the people!) The crowd lapped it up.

Indira Gandhi was fully aware that policemen deployed on bandobast duties were but doing their assigned tasks; that one slip on their part would invariably be viewed seriously, would perhaps cost them even their job… and more particularly, any lapse or laxity on their part could hamper and endanger her own security.

And yet she indulged in her game for public image, for political mileage. In her political life, she needed to be totally reliant on the policemen that surrounded her; who protected her person. What irony then that she was done to death by one of her own security men! However political, communal, vengeful reasons that killing was or turned out to be!

Rajiv was a different cup of tea. The suave gadget-crazy, techno-savvy young prime minister was a know-all. He believed no one could manage his security better than himself. It was immediately after his taking over as PM soon after his mother’s assassination that the Special Protection Group was created.

Giving the slip to his own security was not unknown. Perhaps there was a method in this kind of madness. The surprise element being one of the best security affording factors, an unplanned movement or an incognito visit does at times work to one’s advantage.

No one could teach him better in these matters. He believed in and contributed to the legal maxim: “the King can do no wrong”. Yes, his royal self was beyond law… laws were meant for lesser mortals. Especially speeding laws…

In a move meant to be progressive, Rajiv introduced the five-day working week in place of the then existing six-day working week for government establishments. Was it to improve efficiency? Did it? …I wouldn’t know! But speculation then was rife - it was because Sonia put her foot down insisting on the weekend culture of the west - work hard and really well during the week, but spare the weekend for the family!

And a family weekend meant the family farmhouse in Mehrauli. It was a routine weekend ritual for us then to lay on route arrangements for PM Rajiv’s “to and fro” farmhouse journeys. Nightmares, if one were to recall those weekends of the mid-80s.

On most of his movements and especially during his private weekend visits to the Mehrauli farm, Rajiv drove his own reddish brown modified and reinforced Jonga. And he drove fast, breaking every prescribed speed limit in creation. Rajiv’s penchant for speed was well known. It was as if he tried beating his own previous record on each new visit - be it to the farm, be it to the airport!

I remember an incident. Mukund Upadhye, a long time colleague in the traffic department on supervisory duty, was following Rajiv’s Jonga in his own traffic gypsy, trying to keep pace. The speeding Jonga suddenly came to a halt, Rajiv got down and walked back to Mukund’s Gypsy, reached through the window and across him to the keys. Which he snatched and walked back to his Jonga - without uttering a word, leaving behind a stunned and petrified Mukund. Just to stop the Gypsy from following!

It was common for the security pilot vehicle to be overtaken and left by the wayside and often the security escort vehicles could not keep up. There were times too when the escort drivers lost control and sent their vehicles into a spin or landed them on their top. There were times when the speeding Jonga surprised and hit the unsuspecting intruder on the route, a roadside bin or shrub. No one dared whisper a sound. Only a confidential report to the police headquarters filed routinely, week after week!

And now it’s Rahul’s turn. He has started well, in the footsteps of his father. His cocky arrogance says it all. It was not for the Koraput police to be miffed! To hell with security rules and regulations. They are not for “The Manor Born” - the one tipped to be the PM in waiting!

I believe there is no error in the formula “the King can do no wrong” when the King is the embodiment of truth and what’s right. But he who sets out to reduce the King to human blood and bones and to confine what’s right within the limits of human frailties, in all likelihood will suffer his head in forfeit. God forbid!

(Maxwell Pereira is a former joint commissioner of Delhi Police. He can be reached at mfjpkamath@gmail.com)

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