Amid the ongoing political debate on the need for elite Special Protection Group (SPG) cover for Bharatiya Janata Party’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, the Centre is not taking any chances when it comes to his security, particularly after last month’s blasts at BJP’s rally in Patna.
Though the SPG Act does not allow the Centre to provide the security cover (created on the lines of the U.S. Secret Service to protect the Prime Minister, former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members) to Mr. Modi, the Centre has upgraded his security akin to ‘SPG level.’
Mr. Modi’s security cover comprising 18 NSG or ‘Black Cat’ commandos has now been upgraded to 36 commandos with at least a three-layer security ring. Apart from this, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has now provided the ‘Advance Security Liaison’ (ASL) facility whereby multi-layer security checks are conducted at his rally sites.
The Gujarat Chief Minister is likely to address over 100 rallies before the general elections.MHA sources said the NSG was “unofficially” working in close coordination with the SPG on security for Mr. Modi. The Centre is also considering deployment of a senior official, possibly from the SPG, at Ahmedabad for monitoring Mr. Modi’s security preparations and do the ASL planning with the Gujarat Police and the police of the States concerned where Mr. Modi is to address rallies or attend other functions.
The ASL team is ensuring that all prescribed norms for public meetings are properly followed, which include a three-day advance and continuous checks at the rally venues by anti-terrorism squads and state police.
Terming the controversy over the BJP’s demand for SPG cover to Mr. Modi as “unnecessary,” Minister of State for Home R.P.N. Singh said: “Narendra Modi’s security is akin to SPG cover. Today, he is one of the most-protected VIPs.”
The Intelligence Bureau is taking all Modi-related alerts seriously and they are being discussed regularly at the high-level meetings at the MHA, while the States concerned are also alerted. The Intelligence and security agencies have been registering an increase in threat inputs on Mr. Modi, particularly from terrorist organisations like Indian Mujahideen, the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Hizbul Mujahideen and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.
The MHA has told security agencies to follow guidelines for rallies being addressed by leaders with high threat perception. Political parties have been asked to give detailed lists of their programmes to the police and refrain from last-minute changes.
“We have asked all parties to nominate a functionary who will liaise and coordinate with security agencies,” a senior MHA official said. Political parties have also been asked to send minimum number of people to airports to receive leaders like Mr. Modi and give access to dais only to a few.