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Its not only BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi who has been provided additional commandos for his security by the Central government, there are several others belonging to opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab whom the MHA has granted VIP security cover as well.
Unlike his predecessor P Chidambaram who had brought down the number of VIP protectees, present Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has been quite generous. Since Shinde took over on August 1, 2013, as many as 24 political as well as business personalities have been given a VIP security status. In the past year, some key politicians belonging to the opposition who have been given the VIP cover are BSP MP Brajesh Pathak (Z), former MLA of Shiromani Akali Dal Manjinder Singh Kang (Z plus) and former BJP MP Prabhu Dayal Katheria (Y).
With this increase, the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has asked the MHA to double the strength of their wing. The CISF, which has a dedicated wing — the Special Security Group (SSG) — to cater to VIP security is short on staff following the additions in the past one year.
The latest name added to the list is Congress leader Saleem Iqbal Sherwani, who unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha elections from Badayun in Uttar Pradesh. Out of the 43 VIP’s that the CISF has been asked to protect, 19 are from UP and eight from Punjab. “We have a sanctioned strength of 1,200 men in the SSG, now with the number of people with VIP status on a rise we decided to write to the MHA to increase our strength. There are some protectees who are to be provided mobile security cover throughout the country. For this we have asked the ministry to increase our strength to 2,400 personnel,” said a senior official.
“Since it is election season there is an increased movement of these protectees. We have to mobilise our forces in the states where the VIP is travelling to and sometimes we do not have the adequate personnel with us. We can increase the SSG component only after it is cleared by the ministry,” said the official.
In June this year, the government set a precedent when it asked the CRPF to provide protection to Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) chairman Mukesh Ambani on a paid basis.