The Maharashtra government has reduced security cover for former Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and his family, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, and MNS chief Raj Thackeray, as well as withdrawing cover for state BJP chief Chandrakant Patil and former Chief Minister Narayan Rane. The government also scaled back security for former Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and cancelled protection for senior BJP leader Sudhir Mungantiwar. The government said changes in security cover were based on “prevailing threat perception”. The government also announced increased (or new) cover for a few, including Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha, Sunetra Pawar (Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar’s wife) and Varun Sardesai, the Secretary of the Yuva Sena and nephew of Chief Minister Thackeray’s wife Rashmi Thackeray. The annual recurring expenditure is way too much for Maharashtra ministers, as a whole, would be spending many times more than any other states. How many of these would have really deserved such munificence from the State? The day the Taxpayers really are in a position to question the authorities, things would change. Is it a well-known fact that Security provided is not to really secure the person but to provide hollowness around him to lend undeserving importance to him. Let’s assume for argument sake that a particular legislature has some threat perception, which is very subjectively decided, someone would have to take a view whether a man walking on the street, who has faithfully cast his vote, has some expectation of safety and security of his body, family and property. But the resources are spread elsewhere.
The changes – 16 withdrawals, 13 new protected, 11 downgrades, and two upgrades – triggered a political row; with Maharashtra BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhyay accusing the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi of “vendetta politics”. But one must realise that getting an official security cover has become a status symbol. The importance of an MP or an MLA is judged not by the work given to him but by the level of security provided to him/her. So, all our elected representatives, be they in the Parliament or the state assemblies vie with one another to have the highest level of security provided to him/her. This official security personnel is used to not only protect the concerned person but most often are used to intimidate the rivals as well. Sometimes, this can get blown up to physical beatings also. Some of these protected, also get physical with their rivals, who do not retaliate due to the security present and who do intervene to prevent any harm coming to the person. Most of our elected representatives are more of a burden to society with their privileges and the freebies to which they become entitled. But this was not always so. I have seen the late Dr. Y. S. Parmar, the founder of Himachal Pradesh, and then it’s serving Chief Minister, walking on the Mall, Shimla alone without much security detail, Maharashtra’s Shard Pawar hardly seen with security cover, similarly, Late Manohar Parrikar never opted for such privileges. Those who work in public interest need no security, it is the public that guards them. Some of our leaders were in real need of security but to most of them, it became another status symbol to be had, even if not needed.
Fadnavis is a frequent critic of Chief Minister Thackeray and the MVA since being elected out of office in October (after a bitter falling out between the BJP and long-time ally the Shiv Sena). This time he got another chance to attack him but the reality is that even the BJP government did the same with the Gandhi family in centre. Home Minister Anil Deshmukh whispered that the security was per threat perception. Its political culture cultivated by Indian politics right from the British period who had personal threat always. However, after independence, India should have a better system of managing the security rather than creating multiple levels of protection including ‘Z’ and ‘Z+’ security spending in millions. Congress party is the first culprit and is still enjoying itself just because there were incidents of a personal tragedy like Indira Gandhi or Rajiv Gandhi’s death. Politicians should be blamed for demanding such security because of their loose talks or immature behaviour or spreading hatred. Except for President and PM, nobody should have high-level security and nobody else because when a person enters political or public life, he should mentally be ready to sacrifice and without such security, he will be more careful in his behaviour and even if something happens, there is no need to panic as people in politics are not great intellectuals. When we analyse the expenditure on such security, it’s a waste of resources and money definitely and this logic can be extended to so many areas of govt spending as they are mostly unproductive. Avoid unnecessary foreign trips not only by PM but also every state or central level of all foreign trips as these people don’t learn anything worthwhile, but use the country’s money for their glossy foreign tours.
The number of armed personnel around ministers presumed to indicate his power over the common man. The number and types of weapons openly displayed, degree of the rude behavior of security personnel is in direct proportion to the power of the neta, and to crush an ordinary citizen and guaranteed immunity from any legal action. Many netas have criminal cases against them for heinous crimes. No one dares complain about their linkages with goons and gangs. “Business” rivalries among dons being the norm, security is a must for them. Persons making recommendations for security and the approving authorities are a part of the same criminal justice system. So, the rule is simple. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. Politicians should be, in the true sense, “workers” or “servants” for the citizens. Unfortunately, politicians have become seats of power – which is more often than not, misused, and abused. Naturally, then, they are under attack from the citizens. Who would love and respect a political leader who is undermining the interests of common citizens? And in a democracy that is as divergent as India, nobody can please everybody.