Shantanu Mukharji

An unending debate is currently on whether to provide Special Protection Group (SPG) cover to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Presently, Modi is given commandos from the National Security Guards (NSG).  NSG too is a well-trained and thoroughly proficient group capable of protecting Modi but it seems it has become a prestige issue for the BJP to upgrade Modi’s security with SPG in the aftermath of the Gandhi maidan, Patna explosions carried out by the IM.
The BJP demand is in itself an admission that SPG is the best security outfit our country can offer to protect our VIPs. There is, however, no provision in the SPG Act to cater for protective security to any chief minister. So going by the provisions of the Act, CM of Gujarat is not entitled to get SPG cover. In principle, even if Modi has the maximum threat to his life from ISI-sponsored terrorists including the IM, and if he is given SPG cover by effecting an amendment, it would set a precedent whereby all CMs would seek SPG cover.
If seen objectively,  chief ministers of West Bengal, Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are threatened by Maoists. Similarly, Punjab, J&K, Assam etc are all under threats from one or the other terror groups and all such terror groups are expected  to demonstrate with enormous violence as and when elections dates draw to a close. And SPG, even by stretching to its maximum, cannot meet all the requirements. More importantly, being an elite force with so much exclusiveness, it is not desirable to dilute SPG’s  sheen to make it an outfit to cater to all and sundry. However, critics and experts may argue as to how then Sonia Gandhi and her family  members, specially her son-in-law, are enjoying this exclusive facility. This can be dealt with subsequently.
Now, reverting  to the issue of Narendra Modi’s security, SPG can not be given to him. Having said that we cannot allow Modi to be exposed to terrorists amid real time threats to harm him. IM led explosions in Patna most recently are adequate evidence and pointer to the fact that Modi is the number one target and terrorists are determined. Under these circumstances, the best available option would be to let NSG continue as it is but its efficacy must be overseen by IB experts responsible for VIP security specially on features like whether firearms are adequate in quality and quantity, worthiness of the motorcade including bullet proof vehicle etc. In addition to this, there should be periodic threat assessments carried out by IB professionals in conjunction with their foreign and inland partners factoring in all human and technical intelligence, and quickly analysing and placing security arrangements accordingly. In other words, Advance Security Intelligence Liaison (ASL) is being recommended. That’s what the SPG does.
For an ASL ahead of Modi’s visit to any public function, within or outside India, ASL drill must be in place. The ASL team comprises an IB official, a representative from the host government’s police dealing with intelligence and security, a good anti-sabotage technical team, and in Modi’s case, police representatives from intelligence and security of Gujarat, the former with the latest intelligence inputs preferably of actionable nature and supported by photos and relevant intercepts. These officers will then recommend arrangements which will be the responsibility of the host government to ensure Modi’s security at his place of stay, public venue, movements in motorcades in various parts of the city, safe facilities in case of a contingency earmarking hospitals with availability of matching blood groups, readiness of helicopters to airlift in an unwarranted situation etc. These elementary things plus access control are likely to provide a near fool-proof security defeating enemy plans to penetrate the security armour. And all of this must be intelligence led.
Simultaneously, on its part, Gujarat government should make efforts in collaboration with SPG  to model their security establishment for VIP security on the SPG. The SPG  draws its officers from the states’ IPS or state cadre officers, para military officers and men from CRPF, BSF, ITBP and others. Gujarat may requisition some officers from other states, para military personnel preferably belonging to Gujarat. They can be trained on nuances of VIP security by serving SPG instructors or freshly retired SPG trainers whose experience will turn the existing security setup into a class one outfit to meet all security challenges regarding Modi’s security. Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu already have good security outfits to meet the needs so their expertise could also be used. Many states have their own outfits for VIP security but the recent threats call for their up-gradation making them of almost the same stature as the SPG. It can be done.
Instead of continuing a spat between Congress and the BJP on SPG cover for Modi, we can consider adopting the aforesaid option as the upcoming elections are likely to see bloody violence almost in every state where VIPs will be prime targets of extremists with Modi as the main focus. Security personnel must act as deterrent and  seem menacing to the potential attackers. And a well knit dedicated security group, armed not only with latest state of the art firearms but with relevant intelligence and will to neutralise the potential assailants is the answer to deal with the VIP security challenge.

The writer is a retired Indian Police Service (IPS) officer who had served the elite SPG from 1985 to 1992. Views expressed in this article are personal.