A war of words erupted on Wednesday between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress on the issue of security for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.
On Tuesday, the BJP had passed a Parliamentary Board resolution, demanding the party’s prime ministerial candidate be covered by the Special Protection Group (SPG), in the aftermath of the blasts at Modi’s rally in Patna on October 27.
Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar accused the centre of taking the issue of Modi's security lightly.
Modi is on the hit list of terrorists and the government knows this, said Javadekar. He said politics should not be played over the security of the party's prime ministerial candidate. “We have lost two prime ministers to terrorism. We should not do politics on the issue of security,” said Javadekar, referring to the assassinations of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
Later in the day, Minister of State for Home R P N Singh responded to Javadekar, saying Modi had the protection of the National Security Guard and this was enough. “Whatever security is required, we have given to Modi,” Singh said.
Stating that the home ministry gives security according to the threat perception, Singh said, “I would like to remind the National Democratic Alliance of the type of security they had given to former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. They had not given him a security of the sub-inspector level and he lost his life. But I would like to assure the BJP that we are giving him full security.”
Rajiv Gandhi was killed in a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam suicide bomb attack in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu in May 1991.
Notably, while making the statement, R P N Singh forgot that it was the Chandrashekhar government which was in power in 1991, not the BJP.
But, if Singh made a faux pas on this issue, the BJP is also voicing a completely different stand on VIP security, from what it had said more than a decade ago.
According to the SPG Act, only the prime minister, former prime minister s and their immediate family are entitled to SPG security
In 2003, when the SPG Act was amended to review protection for former prime ministers and their families on a year-to-year basis, the BJP, which was in power, had batted strongly for this level of protection to prime ministers. V P S Badnore of the BJP had spoken eloquently that given the financial burden, only the prime minister should be given SPG protection and other VIPs be protected differently.
As home minister, while piloting the very same SPG (Amendment) bill, L K Advani had deplored the tendency to seek security, and in faintly horrified tones during the debate, had said many had approached him seeking ‘Z’ security because that helped them to get a government house.
“The other day, when I was talking with some of the police officials in Delhi, I asked what the total strength of police personnel in Delhi was. They told me that it was 57,000 or so. I asked them what the estimated number of policemen who are entrusted with VIP security duty would be. I was shocked to hear that out of 57,000 personnel, 7,000 policemen were entrusted with the responsibility of VIP security. These are telling figures. Here is a city with a population of one crore or more and for that one crore population, 57,000 police personnel is a small number. And, out of this 57,000 personnel, 7,000 are to be entrusted with the duty to safeguard VIPs,” Advani had said in 2003.