Maharashtra govt reduces security cover of Devendra Fadnavis, Raj Thackeray

Fadnavis, who is at present leader of opposition in the state Assembly, alleged that the government was now giving security “on the basis of politics”, and that this would not impact his plans to travel and meet people.

Former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis

The Maharashtra government has reduced the security cover of former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and his family, former UP governor Ram Naik and MNS president Raj Thackeray, and withdrawn the security cover of state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil. State BJP spokesman Keshav Upadhye termed the action unfortunate and a “vendetta” of the ruling coalition against his party’s leaders. Fadnavis, who is at present leader of opposition in the state Assembly, alleged that the government was now giving security “on the basis of politics”, and that this would not impact his plans to travel and meet people.

However, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh rejected the opposition BJP’s charge and said the security of political leaders was reviewed as per the prevailing threat perception. As per a government notification issued on January 8, Fadnavis will now get ‘Y-plus security with escort’, instead of the ‘Z-plus’ cover. The security of his wife Amruta Fadnavis and daughter Divija has been downgraded from ‘Y-plus with escort’ to ‘X’ category. Former Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik will now get ‘Y’ cover instead of ‘Y-plus’. MNS chief Raj Thackeray’s security cover has been downgraded from ‘Z’ to ‘Y plus with escort’. The security covers of BJP leader and former CM Narayan Rane, state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and senior party leader Sudhir Mungantiwar have been withdrawn. Rane had ‘Y-plus’ security. Besides, the security of state Lokayukta M L Tahiliani has been downgraded from ‘Z’ to ‘Y’.

According to sources, the ‘Z-plus’ security comprises a bullet-proof car, a police inspector, two assistant police inspectors, two police sub-inspectors, two escort vehicles with six constables in each, and 10 other constables at any given point of time, while the ‘Z’ category has a security cover of 22 personnel. The ‘Y’ category comprises a security cover of 11 personnel, while the ‘X’ category has a security cover of two personnel, the sources said. The government, as per the notification, has upgraded the security of two persons, downgraded of 11, withdrawn of 16, while 13 new people have got security cover.

Prominent among the new persons to get security are Sunetra Pawar, wife of state Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and Varun Sardesai, secretary of the Yuva Sena and nephew of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s wife Rashmi Thackeray. Both have been given ‘X’ security cover. Union minister Ramdas Athawale will get only ‘Y-plus’ security instead of the ‘Y-plus with escort’, while central minister Raosaheb Danve’s ‘Y-plus’ cover has been withdrawn. The government has also withdrawn the security cover of former minister Rajkumar Badole, BJP MLAs Prasad Lad and Ram Kadam, and former speaker and BJP MLA Haribhau Bagade. The state has also withdrawn the ‘X’ category security of former Mumbai Congress chief Kripashankar Singh, who quit the party, and BJP’s former minister Shobhatai Fadnavis, an aunt of Devendra Fadnavis.

Senior advocate Ujjwal Nikam’s ‘Y-plus with escort’ cover has been upgraded to ‘Z’, while film actor and Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha’s ‘Y-plus’ cover has been upgraded to ‘Y-plus with escort’. The security of BJP’s former minister Ashish Shelar has been downgraded from ‘Y-plus’ to ‘Y’. State Legislative Council Chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar and Relief and Rehabilitation minister Vijay Wadettiwar will get ‘Y-plus with escort’, while Shiv Sena MLA Vaibhav Naik, who had defeated Narayan Rane in the 2014 Assembly polls, will get ‘X’ security cover. Current state ministers Sandeepan Bhumre, Sunil Kedar, Dilip Walse Patil and Abdul Sattar, Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar and state Assembly’s Deputy Speaker Narhari Zhirwal have been given ‘Y’ cover. Meanwhile, state BJP spokesman Keshav Upadhye alleged that the security of Fadnavis and other BJP leaders was downgraded out of “political vendetta”.

“The decision shows what kind of a mindset the government has, and it is unfortunate. During the COVID-19 lockdown period, Fadnavis was travelling to the nook and corner of the state, while Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray was sitting at home,” he claimed. Upadhye said Fadnavis was the first to reach Bhandara where 10 babies died in fire at a hospital on Saturday. “Even if the entire security cover is removed, he (Fadnavis) would continue to travel in the state and highlight the voice of the people,” the BJP leader said. Reacting to the government’s decision, Fadnavis said he had no complaints or worry. Fadnavis said he had not taken security when he was the state BJP president. He said he received security for the first time after becoming the chief minister of Maharashtra and subsequently, on the threat perception after the hanging of (1993 Mumbai blasts convict) Yakub Memon and action against Naxalites.

“I feel security should be given on the basis of threat perception, now the government is giving security on the basis of politics. Some are getting increased protection even when there is no threat perception to them,” he said. “I am a people’s person and this doesn’t impact my travel (schedules) to meet people,” Fadnavis said. Speaking to reporters in Nagpur, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh rejected Upadhye’s charge and said the decision to review the security cover of several leaders and prominent personalities has been taken as perthe threat perception, irrespectiveof political affiliations. “A committee of five senior officers was set up to review the security and take a decision as per the threat perception,” he said. Deshmukh said even NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is an ally of the Shiv Sena in the state government, called him over phone, asking that his security cover be downgraded.

“During the BJP’s rule, Sharad Pawar and Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar did not have any security. Sharad Pawar has also written a letter seeking reduction in his security,” the minister said. Meanwhile, BJP leader Narayan Rane said he was given security by Mumbai police because he had a threat from terrorists. “I have no complaints. If anything happens to me, the state government is to be blamed,” he said. Sudhir Mungantiwar said he was given security due to Naxal threat. “I thank the government for withdrawing my security cover. This means the Naxal threat doesn’t exist. Our aim to highlight people’s voice will be more stronger,” he said.

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