Later in the day the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi will be addressing his party’s youth conference in Tiruchi, his first political rally in Tamil Nadu, but for the Tamil Nadu police it has been a tense 24 hours so far.
With BJP cadres from every district in the state pouring into the city since the morning, it has been a security nightmare. Lurking in the background, but which no police officer would mention, is the bomb blasts that went off at LK Advani’s election rally in Coimbatore in 1998. With Modi’s threat perception the highest among politicians, the state police is leaving nothing to chance.
More than 5000 policemen from across southern districts have been deployed to ensure that nothing untoward happens on Thursday. The inspector general of police, Southern Region, M Subramani, told this correspondent, “All arrangements are in place, with the police commissioner of Tiruchi in charge.”
The four-km distance from the Tiruchi airport to the venue of the meeting has 10 cops deployed every 100 metres. Five DIGs and 12 SPs have been posted along with 5000 policemen to oversee the security arrangements. A review meeting was conducted on Tuesday by the assistant DGP (law and order) T K Rajendran to go through the arrangements minutely, and on Wednesday there was a dry run from the airport to the venue.
The assistant commissioner (intelligence) K Sridharan said every government hospital in the city has been asked to be on stand-by for any emergency. All police stations in the area would be used as safe houses in case of an emergency, and a three-tier security drill has been put in place. “We are using X-ray machines, metal detectors and dog squads at the venue,” Sridharan told this correspondent.
Vehicles are not being allowed anywhere near the venue from 7.30 am onwards, and the security phalanx can only get tighter as the day progresses. The entire venue has been cordoned off, with policemen posted around the periphery keeping a hawk’s eye on the ground.
At the police review meeting for security, the surprise addition was the presence of officers from Gujarat.
A minor panic set in when a man walked into Sridharan’s office to say that when he was drinking in a bar, a bearded man told him he had planted bombs in a few temples and that the fun would start in an hour. The police, already stretched to the limit, swung into action. Patrol number 3 in whose jurisdiction the bar fell was alerted, as was the nearest police station. A car took the man to the bar but they could not find anyone matching the description.
A call to another DCP’s office that a bomb would go off at the venue resulted in the entire venue being gone over by a fine tooth comb by the bomb squad. Thankfully, nothing was found.
Modi will be flying in from Thiruvananthapuram and flying out to Ahmedabad after the rally is over.
Since Modi was named as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate, the National Security Guard, which is responsible for providing Z category security, increased the inner security cordon for Modi from 18 to 16, the total close-range NSG deployment for Modi going up to 108 with this move – the highest among the 16 Z+ protectees. The Gujarat police continue to be responsible for his outer cordon.
But this security cover is available for Modi only in Gujarat. The state’s additional chief secretary (home) SK Nanda said recently that they have written to the Centre to upgrade Modi’s security when he travels outside the state for election rallies, given the threat perception he faces.