What does it take for a VVIP to campaign?

May 1st, 2009 - 10:56 am ICT by IANS  

Rahul Gandhi By Murali Krishnan
New Delhi, May 1 (IANS) This is what it takes security agencies to arrange a campaign meeting of Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi in Purulia in West Bengal, or Anantnag in Kashmir or anywhere else in the country.

First an advance security liaison is done by the Intelligence and Tours division of the Special Protection Group (SPG) and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) to study the threat perception in the area Gandhi proposes to visit.

The state intelligence bureau is then informed so it is aware of the proposed trip, takes requisite precautions and informs the state police. An advance reconnaissance team of the SPG reaches the place to coordinate with the local unit. The team inspects the places where rallies will be held and the route Gandhi is likely to take and sanitises the area while the state police provides perimeter security.

Right through Rahul Gandhi’s journey either by car or on foot, his proximate security cover will comprise ring round teams, isolation cordons, the sterile zone around, rostrum and access control. If the area he chooses to campaign in is risk-prone, a bullet-proof car is positioned on the tarmac of the nearest airport.

Considering that Rahul Gandhi is likely to address over 150 election meetings in the five-phase poll, security agencies will be stretched as the logistics in organising these public meetings is truly formidable. The Congress party will pick up the tab for his travel expenses and arrangements.

Not only Rahul Gandhi but many senior politicians high on the hit list of terrorists are now criss-crossing the country addressing election rallies and campaigning, thus stretching security agencies to the utmost.

The security cover for nearly two dozen VVIPs is more stringent than before, given the series of terror attacks last year and recent events in neighbouring countries. The union home ministry has warned state governments that terrorists will try to target politicians, and all chief ministers are taking the warning seriously.

Right through the campaign period lasting over a month the state police, the SPG and IB sleuths are having a harrowing time arranging security and schedules of protectees.

“We have been on our toes for the last month and only three phases have got over. Our boys are fit and alert as election time is when we are extra careful,” said an SPG official.

The high-risk high-profile campaigners in this election include Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her children Rahul and Priyanka, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.

However, it is a different ball game when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh hits the campaign trail. In his case the provisions contained in the Blue Book, which lays down security guidelines for the protection of the prime minister, are strictly followed.

(Murali Krishnan can be contacted at m.krish@ians.in)

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