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Manmohan Singh's security beefed up

By Josy Joseph in Delhi
May 21, 2004 00:58 IST
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Prime Minister-designate Manmohan Singh and family have been provided with elite Special Protection Group security.

The security of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi is also being upgraded.

The SPG had taken over the security of Dr Singh since Wednesday night when he was formally invited by President APJ Abdul Kalam to form the next government.

The non-descript 19 Safdarjung Road residence of Dr Singh has now been lit up with high-powered floodlights by the SPG, even as the Delhi Police has blocked off traffic on the one-way right in front of Dr Singh's residence.

"We are very eager to move him to 7 Race Course Road at the earliest," a senior security officer told

He, however, added that if the next prime minister had been Sonia Gandhi 'our work would have been simplified'.

Sonia Gandhi and her children already enjoy SPG protection, and she was one of the few leaders who were allowed to park her vehicles within the Parliament complex.  "We are upgrading the level (of her security) a little further," the official said.

He said Mrs Gandhi is now being extended a security that is equivalent to that of prime minister.

After the Bharatiya Janata Party and its splinter groups began protesting against her foreign origin and the possibility of her becoming the prime minister, the Intelligence Bureau and security agencies have been on a high alert.

Home Secretary Anil Baijal chaired a meeting early this week and decided to upgrade her security.

In the new set up, security personnel would be positioned along the routes that she would be travelling by road.

"There is no specific threat to her but we have to be doubly sure," another official in the security set up said. Her routes would be 'sanitised', said the officer, pointing out that civilian traffic could be stopped for her convoy to pass by.

Civilian traffic is stopped in the entire route only for Prime Minister, President and heads of state, officials point out.

Senior political leaders face serious security threat mainly from Kashmiri militants. But in case of Sonia Gandhi she faces equally critical threat from LTTE and some remnants of Punjab militancy.

According to security forces, as soon as outgoing Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee shifts to his new residence on Krishna Menon Marg, Dr Manmohan Singh and family would be shifted to 7 Race Course Road.

"Of course a few days would be taken up to spruce up the house according to the family's tastes," says one of the security officers.

At 7 Race Course Road, the Singh family would be under several layers of security with the trusted men forming a ring around them 24 hours a day.

Dr Singh could take the service of a helicopter to travel short distances, including for the distance from his new residence to the Delhi airport.

Vajpayee has made use of the helicopter on several occasions, especially when he was travelling frequently during the campaign period.

If Dr Singh prefers to travel by road he would be using the recently acquired custom-made BMW that is bulletproof and blast resistant to a great extent.

Dr Singh would also be entitled to a special aircraft that would have dedicated communication equipment and other secure means of conducting a full-fledged Prime Minister's Office even in times of a nuclear attack.

The process is also underway to acquire a dedicated Prime Minister's plane of the standard of America's Air Force One, officials say.

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Josy Joseph in Delhi