How the forces keep the nation’s elite safe during poll campaign

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Updated: May 16, 2019 7:10:22 PM

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been entrusted with the responsibility to guard 78 VIPs, including BJP President Amit Shah who is under their top category 'Z+' security cover. 

2,000 commandos, intel, PM Modi, Rahul Gandhi, VIP, safe, poll campaign, how vips are kept safe, Lok Sabha, Lok Sabha election, Lok Sabha election 2019, election 2019How the forces keep the nation’s elite safe safe during poll campaign

Over 2,000 agile commandos on ground, 120 young supervisory officers, thousands of bullet rounds, first-aid kits and volumes of intelligence data sheets. This is what it takes for the central forces to ensure a watertight VIP security cover everyday to politicians campaigning across the country during the ongoing polls. While Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi are protected by the elite Special Protection Group (SPG), other prominent politicians are guarded by central forces like the NSG, CRPF, CISF and ITBP, as they travel thousands of kilometres each day canvassing for their parties.

“In all, about 2,000 commandos are on ground and are rotated in shifts, apart from 120 young officers as party of the central security cover to the politicians. A huge amount of paraphernalia of logistics, weapons and intelligence and operational dossiers are put at their disposal everyday when the teams head out with their VIPs for campaigning in the country,” a senior official in the VIP security establishment told PTI.

The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has been entrusted with the responsibility to guard 78 VIPs, including BJP President Amit Shah who is under their top category ‘Z+’ security cover.  Shah, the only one for whom an advance security liaison is done on the lines of SPG protectees, Wednesday said that it would have been difficult for him to survive an attack on his convoy during his road show in Kolkata had it not been for the CRPF cover.

Sources said the force has mobilised a team of officers in the ranks of Assistant Commandants and Deputy Commandants to carry out advance recce of the venues to be covered across the country by Shah, who faces serious security threats. Over 54 such officers have been deployed in various parts of the country to keep a track of prominent protectees under the cover of the CRPF. They are assisted by ground units from 28 various bases of the force activated for the special task, they said.

These commandos of the country’s largest paramilitary force also provide proximate security cover to Union ministers Nitin Gadkari, Ravi Shankar Prasad among others and are armed with sophisticated AK series and MP5 assault rifles, loaded magazines, pistols, mobile body armour and even ropes and sticks for crowd control and special circumstances.

A 24X7 control room at a CRPF base in Noida remains in constant touch with a similar operational centre at the Ministry of Home Affairs in North Block that coordinates every move that these teams undertake and is in regular touch with them over the wireless and mobile phone.

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“VIP security is a game of sharp reflexes and nerves of steel. One has to be very very meticulous while rendering the VIP security task as there are virtually no second chances,” the official said.

Commandos hailing from the local area are also deputed with these VIPs at times so that they are able to catch every murmur or voice that emerges from the crowd, he said. They also carry first-aid kits to help the VIP in case of an injury, motion sickness or tiredness, the official said.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), that has been entrusted with the security of 93 VIPs, has a tough job at hand as it has been recently asked to protect over a dozen new people in West Bengal, most of whom are trying their luck at the hustings. About 40 officials have been deployed in supervisory roles to keep a track of the various protection teams that are out on field.  They camp in the local area and ensure the preparedness, logistics, food and other requirements of the commandos on move, the official said.

The prominent VIPs under the CISF cover are RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (Z+), Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath (Z), Ministers of State in the Modi cabinet Mahesh Sharma and Manoj Sinha, former IPS officer and BJP candidate Bharti Ghosh and a host of other Lok Sabha candidates of the saffron party in the state ruled by the TMC. The CISF VIP security unit has specially-trained personnel and they are called Special Security Group (SSG).

The National Security Guard (NSG) has an all-time low of 13 VIPs under its cover but the task to guard them is very enduring as they include Union home minister Rajnath Singh, former Chief Ministers like Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati and serving CMs like Yogi Adityanath and N Chandrababu Naidu, among others.

The NSG has fine-tuned its security drills before Lok Sabha elections were declared and the ‘black cats’ are now armed with smart communication gadgets, body armour shields. They also conduct an advance recce of the venue for some VIPs like the home minister and others, the official said.

“The commando teams are pre-positioned when the VIP takes a flight or helicopter to travel from one place to the other. When one team securely leaves the VIP at point A, the other receives him when he lands at point B,” the official explained. A good number of VIP security trained drivers have been deployed with these teams on ground as they are a very vital cog of the unit as they can swiftly manoeuvre and rush out the protectee in case of an attack, ambush or bombing incident, he said.

The Indo-Tibetan Police Force guards about 16 VIPs like senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi (Z+), former Jammu and Kashmir CMs Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti among others. The seven-phase elections will end with the last polling day on May 19 and the counting of votes is scheduled for May 23.

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