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Z-plus club: India's most well-guarded politicians

Last updated on: August 16, 2012 16:40 IST

SPG cover for Manmohan Singh, Sonia and Rahul Gandhi

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Vicky Nanjappa

The government of India has said that 15 people in the country have been provided Z-Plus security with over 500 commandos of the National Security Guards deployed for this task.

In India, security is provided to high-risk individuals depending on the threat perception to the person, the category is divided into four tiers: Z-Plus, Z and Y. However, in the case of some, like the prime minister, the security is taken care of the Special Protection Group.

In most cases it is chief ministers, ministers of the cabinet rank, judges of the high court and Supreme Court and some bureaucrats who are entitled to Z and Z-Plus security.

The Z-Plus security cover includes 36 personnel, while the Z and Y category have 11 and 2 personnel respectively.

The category of security given to an individual is under the discretion of the home ministry. The threat perception is taken into account based on inputs given by the Intelligence Bureau. The category of security can also be withdrawn to a person depending on the threat perception.

As Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh's security comes under the Special Protection Group.   

In India, security of the prime minister, Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, is taken care of by the SPG.

Sonia Gandhi too enjoys SPG protection. In 2010, Gandhi ranked as the ninth most powerful person on the planet by 'Forbes Magazine'.

A fourth-generation scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Rahul Gandhi gets SPG cover as he has a high threat perception and also considering that his father and grandmother were assassinated.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh surrounded by security personnel at the Red Fort.
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat

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Apart from the SPG protection, Z-Plus category is the highest level of security cover. Persons under this category of security are entitled to round-the-clock personal security, which include, 28 National Security Guard commandos, an escort, a pilot and tailing vehicles, Cobra commandos and 12 home guards. While this is provided by the home ministry of India, the state governments on their own can also provide extra security to these VVIPs based on the threat perception.

The longest serving chief minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi, is a controversial figure both within India and internationally.

His administration has been criticised for not controlling the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat. Modi's administration was accused of inaction over the riots.

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Image: Narendra Modi at the Lord Jagannath Yatra in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Amit Dave/Reuters AD/BY

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L K Advani, senior BJP leader

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The list of those under Z-plus security has been cut down a great deal. There were nearly 30 to 40 persons who were earlier under Z-Plus but the list has been sized down. It was only recently that the Union ministry removed the X and Y category security to nearly 100 personnel. This list of 100 included former Chief Justice of India, Y K Sabharwal, Rajya Sabha MP Ram Vilas Paswan and Punjab governor and the administrator of Union Territory of Chandigarh, Shivraj Patil.

A veteran politician and former president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Lal Krishna Advani began his political career as a volunteer of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He brought in a shift in the party's policies by advocating Hindutva.

In 1989, the BJP launched a movement led by Advani on the issue of the Ram Janmabhoomi (the birth place of Rama). Advani embarked on a 'Rath Yatra' to mobilise 'karsevaks' to converge upon the Babri Masjid to offer prayers. He was present at Ayodhya when the Babri Masjid was brought down by the karsevaks.

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Image: LK Advani leaves the BJP headquarters in Ahmedabad
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters

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Sachin Tendulkar, sportsperson

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The home ministry had set up a panel to review security and found that most of the beneficiaries were being provided high security for no reason at all. Security to some had more to do with clout and political appeasement, the home ministry had found. A panel had been set up and the security to at least 400 personnel was reviewed.

Sachin Tendulkar was recently given Z-Plus security as there are threats to his life.

In April 2012, Tendulkar accepted the Rajya Sabha nomination proposed by the President. He is the first active sportsperson and cricketer to have been nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

On May 2, Tendulkar was elected to seat number 103 in the Rajya Sabha. 

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Image: Sachin Tendulkar after taking oath at the Indian Parliament in New Delhi
Photographs: Stringer/Reuters

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Mulayam Singh Yadav, former CM of Uttar Pradesh; Akilesh Yadav, UP CM

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While the Z-Plus security is granted by the home ministry to individuals, this service could also be extended to visiting dignitaries. Recently, Pakistan's judicial commission which came down to India to study the 26/11 attack were granted Z-Plus security. However, these persons who visit the country would also have their own security with them which in turn would be the first ring of security. The security provided by the Indian team coordinates with their security.

Mulayam Singh Yadav is a three-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh. During his tenure as chief minister he has been accused of widespread corruption and money laundering. However, corruption charges against him are still pending in the Supreme Court. Yadav is often criticised for playing caste based politics in Uttar Pradesh.

Akilesh Yadav is the youngest person to hold the office of chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh. He was given credit for the party's rise in the 2007 Vidhan Sabha. He was subsequently elected the chief minister.

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Image: Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav waves to his supporters after filing his nomination at Mainpuri in Uttar Pradesh
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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Mayawati, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh

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Mayawati is a former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh and the head of the Bahujan Samaj Party. She was the first female Dalit chief minister in India. However, Mayawati's tenure as CM attracted controversy. 

In 2003, the Central Bureau of Investigation raided Mayawati's residence in relation to the Taj corridor case. This led to the discovery of assets disproportionate to her known income.

Mayawati's assets run into millions of dollars, with several properties to her name. Earlier, the CBI filed a case against her for owning assets disproportionate to her known sources of income. Mayawati described the CBI investigation against her as illegal.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India reported that Rs 15 crore was spent on memorials by Mayawati.

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Image: Mayawati surrounded by security personnel in Lucknow
Photographs: Pawan Kumar/Reuters

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J Jayalalithaa, chief minister of Tamil Nadu

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Enhanced security for many politicians has always been under the scanner. Nearly Rs 400 crore a year is being spent on such security measures. The Delhi high court had observed that politicians are not national assets, but they are bleeding the exchequer.

J Jayalalithaa is the chief minister of Tamil Nadu. She was a popular film star in Indian cinema before her entry into politics.

She is an incumbent general secretary of the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. 

Jayalalithaa was barred from standing as a candidate in the 2001 elections because she had been found guilty of criminal offences, including allegedly obtaining property belonging to a state-operated agency called TANSI.

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Image: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister JJayalalithaa, flanked by a securityman
Photographs: Reuters/KK/CC

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Ghulam Nabi Azad, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir

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A leader of the Indian National Congress and the current minister for health and family welfare. He was the parliamentary affairs minister until October 27, 2005, when he was appointed as the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir. 

He is well-known as a 'crisis manager' of the Congress party.

As a Union minister, he steered successive Congress governments to victory in 21 no-confidence motions including the minority government of P V Narasimha Rao in the early 1990s.

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Image: Ghulam Nabi Azad inspects the guard of honour
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli /Reuters

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Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir

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The main part of the job of Z-Plus security is being carried out by the NSG which has two wings -- Special Action Group which has army personnel on deputation, and the Special Rangers Group, comprising personnel from the ITBP, CISF, CRPF, BSF and SSB. While the main job of the SRG wing is to handle anti-hijack operations it was found that over half the men were diverted to protect politicians.

A doctor of medicine Farooq Abdullah has served as chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir on several occasions since 1982.

Abdullah was a novice in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir when he was appointed president of the National Conference in August 1981. His main qualification was that he was the son and heir of the Jammu & Kashmir National Conference leader Sheikh Abdullah. He is now a Union minister for new and renewable energy.

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Image: Farooq Abdullah, patron of the National Conference (NC) party, flanked by security guards during a campaign rally near Dal Lake in Srinagar
Photographs: Fayaz Kabli /Reuters

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Rajnath Singh, BJP leader and former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh

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Rajnath Singh has donned several roles. He is a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and has been a Cabinet minister in the National Democratic Alliance regime. He was also national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

Rajnath Singh had been associated with the RSS since 1964.

After the BJP lost power in the 2004 general elections, it was forced to sit in the Opposition. Rajnath Singh sought to rebuild the party by focusing on the most basic Hindutva ideologies.

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Image: Rajnath Singh greeted by party workers in Mumbai
Photographs: Punit Paranjpe/Reuters

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Kalyan Singh, former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh

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The three-time chief minister of Uttar Pradesh was in power when karsevaks demolished the Babri Masjid. Taking the moral responsibility, he resigned from the post of chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in the evening. Later, the Union government dissolved the Uttar Pradesh assembly.

According to the chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Babri Masjid demolition case, just after becoming chief minister, he, with his colleagues, "visited Ayodhya and took a vow to construct Ram temple there itself."

In January 2010, he announced the formation of a new Hindutva-oriented political party, the Jan Kranti Party, but chose to take the role of patron while his son became the leader.

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Image: Former UP CM Kalyan Singh


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Parkash Singh Badal, chief minister of Punjab

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The chief minister of Punjab has previously served as chief minister of the state from 1970 to 1971, from 1977 to 1980, and from 1997 to 2002.

A US-based human rights group filed a federal lawsuit against Badal alleging "torture" of Sikhs in the State. 

On 9 August 2012, the district court in Wisconsin, US, issued summons to visiting Badal, for human rights violations and torture in his state.

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Image: Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Shiromani Akali Dal President Parkash Singh Badal
Photographs: Munish Sharma/Reuters

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V S Achuthanandan, former chief minister of Kerala

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V S Achuthanandan is a former chief minister of Kerala. Achuthanandan was one of the founding leaders of the CPI-M in India, and has played a major role in building the party cadre in Kerala.

During his 40 years as a politician he was imprisoned for five years and six months and was in hiding for four and half years. 

He is the only living Keralite among the 32 members who left the CPI National Council in 1964 to form the CPI-M.

Since 1985 he was the member of the CPI-M politbureau until he was removed as a party disciplinary action.

As chief minister, he has initiated action against encroachment on government land in the hill resort and tea plantation town of Munnar.

Achuthanandan was criticised for his allegedly insensitive comments in response to the abusive language used by slain NSG commando Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan's father.

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Image: Former Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan addresses a public rally
Photographs: Sreeram Selvaraj

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Manik Sarkar, CM of Tripura; Ram Naresh Yadav, governor of Madhya Pradesh

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Manik Sarkar became Chief Minister of Tripura in March 1998, and is a politburo member of CPI-M.

In March 2008, he was sworn in as leader of Left Front, the Tripura coalition government.

Ram Naresh Yadav was chief minister of Uttar Pradesh from 1977 to 1979.

Earlier he was part of the Janata Party but later he joined the Congress. He was appointed Governor of Madhya Pradesh on 26 August 2011.


Image: Former chief minister of West Bengal Buddhadeb Bhattacharya with Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar
Photographs: Jayanta Dey/Reuters

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