How forces keep VIPs safe during campaign

Over 2,000 commandos, 120 officers, volumes of intel data
How forces keep VIPs safe during 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 NarendraModi and Congress presidentRahul Gandhi are protected by the elite Special Protection Group (SPG), otherprominent politicians are guarded by central forces like the NSG, CRPF, CISFand ITBP, as they travel thousands of kilometres each day canvassing for theirparties.

"In all, about 2,000 commandos are on ground and arerotated in shifts, apart from 120 young officers as party of the central securitycover to the politicians. A huge amount of paraphernalia of logistics, weaponsand intelligence and operational dossiers are put at their disposal everydaywhen the teams head out with their VIPs for campaigning in the country," asenior official in the VIP security establishment told PTI.

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

 Shah, the only onefor 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 attackon his convoy during his road show in Kolkata had it not been for the CRPFcover.

Sources said the force has mobilised a team of officers inthe ranks of Assistant Commandants and Deputy Commandants to carry out advancerecce of the venues to be covered across the country by Shah, who faces serioussecurity threats.

Over 54 such officers have been deployed in various parts ofthe country to keep a track of prominent protectees under the cover of theCRPF. They are assisted by ground units from 28 various bases of the forceactivated for the special task, they said.

These commandos of the country's largest paramilitary forcealso provide proximate security cover to Union ministers NitinGadkari, RaviShankar Prasad among others and are armed with sophisticated AK series and MP5assault rifles, loaded magazines, pistols, mobile body armour and even ropesand sticks for crowd control and special circumstances.

 A 24X7 control roomat a CRPF base in Noida remains in constant touch with a similar operationalcentre at the Ministry of Home Affairs in North Block that coordinates everymove that these teams undertake and is in regular touch with them over thewireless and mobilephone.

"VIP security is a game of sharp reflexes and nerves ofsteel. One has to be very very meticulous while rendering the VIP security taskas there are virtually no second chances," the official said.

 Commandos hailingfrom the local area are also deputed with these VIPs at times so that they areable to catch every murmur or voice that emerges from the crowd, he said.

 They also carryfirst-aid kits to help the VIP in case of an injury, motion sickness ortiredness, the official said.

The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), that has beenentrusted with the security of 93 VIPs, has a tough job at hand as it has beenrecently asked to protect over a dozen new people in West Bengal, most of whomare trying their luck at the hustings.

 About 40 officialshave been deployed in supervisory roles to keep a track of the variousprotection 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 officialsaid.

The prominent VIPs under the CISF cover are RSS chief MohanBhagwat (Z+), Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath (Z), Ministers of Statein the Modi cabinet Mahesh Sharma and Manoj Sinha, former IPS officer and BJPcandidate Bharti Ghosh and a host of other LokSabha candidates of the saffronparty in the state ruled by the TMC.

The CISF VIP security unit has specially-trained personneland they are called Special Security Group (SSG).

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

The NSG has fine-tuned its security drills before LokSabhaelections were declared and the 'black cats' are now armed with smartcommunication gadgets, body armour shields. They also conduct an advance recceof the venue for some VIPs like the home minister and others, the officialsaid.

"The commando teams are pre-positioned when the VIPtakes a flight or helicopter to travel from one place to the other. When oneteam securely leaves the VIP at point A, the other receives him when he landsat point B," the official explained.

A good number of VIP security trained drivers have beendeployed with these teams on ground as they are a very vital cog of the unit asthey 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 likesenior BJP leader MurliManohar Joshi (Z+), former Jammu and Kashmir CMs OmarAbdullah, Mehbooba Mufti among others.The seven-phase elections will end with the lastpolling day on May 19 and the counting of votes is scheduled for May 23.

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