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CM scrambles to include ministers in list of VIPs getting security cover

Hours before the model code of conduct for the Assembly polls kicked in, the CM-led committee pushed through proposals to include three cabinet ministers on the list of personalities accorded higher security cover

The Maharashtra government’s largesse before the elections does not only extend to so-called welfare schemes for the poor, but also to the state’s leading politicians and IPS officers.

Minority Affairs Minister Naseem Khan (seen above with the CM), both from the Congress, were accorded Y-category security
Minority Affairs Minister Naseem Khan (seen above with the CM), both from the Congress, were accorded Y-category security

It is reliably learnt that last week, the Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan-led Security Review Committee hurriedly pushed through proposals to include as many as three cabinet ministers and two serving IPS officials on the list of personalities accorded a prestigious category security cover, namely Z+, Z, Y and X.

Cooperatives Minister Harshvardhan Patil. File pics
Cooperatives Minister Harshvardhan Patil. File pics

The meeting was conveniently timed just a few hours before the model code of conduct came into force for the upcoming assembly polls. The CM seemed in a great rush this time to push for the proposals, while he had himself, in 2011, put on hold the decision to scale down security cover for leading politicians and IPS officials.

Y category:  Harshvardhan Patil, cooperatives minister
Y category:  Harshvardhan Patil, cooperatives minister

At that point, the decision to scale down cover had been pending for as many as eight years. Yet Chavan dithered on scaling down the cover of as many as 55 VVIPs following intelligence reports that the level of threat had come down.

Y category: Naseem Khan, minority affairs minister
Y category: Naseem Khan, minority affairs minister

Sources in the committee told mid-day that along with approving the latest proposals ‘pushed’ by the chief minister’s office (CMO), the committee decided to withdraw cover to all non-categorised individuals, as is the practice in every election once the Election Commission (EC) enforces the model code of conduct.

Z+ category: Himanshu Roy, ATS chief
Z+ category: Himanshu Roy, ATS chief

Not all ministers in the state are accorded a category cover, and whatever little is provided must be compulsorily withdrawn during the election period.

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Sources confirmed to mid-day that senior Congress leader and Maharashtra Co-Operatives Minister Harshvardhan Patil was also lobbying hard to ensure the meeting took place to coincide with the code of conduct; he was included on the list and given a Y category cover.

He was earlier not on any category. Naseem Khan, minister for textiles and minority development, and guardian minister for Mumbai suburban district, was also given Y security. Both Khan and Patil are said to be close confidantes of the CM.

Patil had sustained an injury in his eye after some activists had hurled ink at him at a public function at Bhigwan village, Pune, on August 8. The Y category entails him with as many as 11 personnel, including one personal security officer and an armed guard at the residence.

A proposal to scale down Industries Minister Narayan Rane’s security cover was struck down by the members, sources said. Rane, who had publicly rebelled against Chavan and currently has Y security cover, would’ve been without any security had the proposal gone through.

From the IPS officials, chief of the state Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) Himanshu Roy was accorded a place on the list of highly guarded individuals as a Z+ category individual, due to the sensitive nature of cases he has been handling.

Escort jeeps are only provided to people with Z+ security cover, which is enjoyed only by the CM, Speaker and the Home Minister, and now Roy. “Both the chief minister and the co-operatives minister were keen on pushing names of three ministers, despite resistance by the members, and got their way to a large extent.

Patil’s contention was considered in the wake of the ink attack, in which he almost lost his eye. We can’t reveal the name of others for security reasons,” said a highly placed source. Besides the CM, the home minister, additional chief secretary (home), DGP, and chief of state intelligence agencies attended the meetings.

“The committee basically withdrew non-category cover, and discussed threat perception reports of intelligence agencies,” said a senior IPS officer. Maharashtra has over 110 important individuals, including ministers and IPS officials who get category cover from the state.

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