Two former chief ministers, a former Governor, two serving Union ministers and the Maharashtra BJP president were among those whose security cover was either withdrawn or downgraded by the Uddhav Thackeray government on Sunday, inviting sharp criticism from the Opposition, which accused it of revenge politics.
While the security cover of Thackeray’s predecessor and current Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, Devendra Fadnavis, was downgraded, the ‘Y+’ cover enjoyed by former chief minister Narayan Rane was completely withdrawn following a threat perception review exercise carried out by the state Home department.
As per the government order, Fadnavis, who was earlier enjoying ‘Z+’ security, will now be getting only ‘Y+’ security with an escort. Sources said that a bullet proof vehicle that was a part of his convoy will now be withdrawn.
The government also downgraded the security cover extended to his wife, Amruta, and daughter, Divija, from ‘Y+’ category to ‘X’ category while striking off the one previously enjoyed by his aunt, Shobhatai Fadnavis — a former minister and a sitting MLC.
Incidentally, while Rane’s security was withdrawn, the government newly granted ‘X’ category security cover to Shiv Sena MLA Vaibhav Naik, who had defeated Rane in the 2014 Assembly polls. It also slashed the security cover of the CM’s cousin and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray from ‘Z’ category to ‘Y+’ with an escort.
Apart from this, the security detail of a slew of BJP leaders — including Union Minister Raosaheb Danve, state BJP president Chandrakant Patil, former Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Haribhau Bagade, former state finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, former social justice minister Rajkumar Badole as well as legislators Ram Kadam and Prasad Lad — has been entirely withdrawn.
Meanwhile, BJP’s Praveen Darekar, Leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, was newly assigned ‘X’ category security.
Reacting sharply, BJP leader Ram Kadam, whose security cover was withdrawn, said, “This is revenge politics.”
Mungantiwar added, “I was provided security, as I work in Naxal areas… it seems now that Naxalism doesn’t exist anymore. Our voice for the protection of people and their rights will grow sharper.”
Rane, meanwhile, said he had been extended security by the Mumbai Police due to threats from terrorists. “If anything happens to me, the state government is to be blamed,” he added.
Fadnavis, however, appeared to brush the matter aside, stating he didn’t want to get into the politics of it. “I never demanded security even as the party chief, it was only as CM, when there were threats, I was given security. This won’t affect my movement at all. We are not the kind of leaders who depend on security, we work among the people.”
But state BJP spokesman Keshav Upadhye said, “The decision shows what kind of a mindset the government has, and it is unfortunate. During lockdown, Fadnavis was travelling to every nook and corner of the state, while Thackeray was sitting at home.”
The security of actor-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha, who is now with the Congress, was upgraded. Two other fresh additions to those given security raised eyebrows – Sunetra Pawar, wife of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar as well as Yuva Sena leader and Minister Aaditya Thackeray’s cousin, Varun Sardesai. Both were extended ‘X’ category security.
Five ministers in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government – Vijay Waddetiwar, Dilip Walse Patil, Sunil Kedar, Sandeepan Bhumre and Abdul Sattar – were newly provided security, while the cover extended to Legislative Council Chairman Ramraje Naik Nimbalkar was enhanced. Deputy Speaker of the Assembly, Narhari Zhirwal, was accorded ‘Y’ security cover.
Others whose security cover was downgraded include Union Minister Ramdas Athawale, former Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik and former BJP minister Ashish Shelar.
The government also withdrew the ‘X’ category security of former Mumbai Congress chief, Kripashankar Singh, who quit the party ahead of the 2019 Assembly polls in support of the BJP.
The security detail of high-profile prosecutor Ujwal Nikam was upgraded from ‘Y+’ with escort to ‘Z’ category, while that of Maharashtra’s Lokayukta, Justice (retd) M L Tahiliani, was downgraded.
Countering the Opposition’s allegation, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that the downgrading was due to a routine threat perception review.
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