BJP leaders cry foul as Maharashtra scales down security

Security cover of former CM Devendra Fadnavis, MNS chief Raj Thackeray downgraded in revamp

The Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra has downgraded the security cover of a number of prominent opposition leaders, including BJP Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Devendra Fadnavis and his family, former Uttar Pradesh governor Ram Naik, and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) chief Raj Thackeray.

It has also withdrawn the security cover of BJP State president Chandrakant Patil.

BJP leaders have condemned the decision and dubbed it ‘vendetta politics’.

According to a government notification issued on January 8, Mr. Fadnavis will now get a ‘Y-plus security with escort’ instead of his earlier ‘Z-plus’ cover, which included a bulletproof vehicle. The security of his wife Amruta Fadnavis, and his daughter, has been downgraded from ‘Y-plus with escort’ to the lesser ‘X’ category.

“I have no worries…I have full support of the public of Maharashtra, and being a people’s person, this move will have no impact on my travels to meet people and gauge their problems,” Mr. Fadnavis said.

Likewise, security cover of MNS chief Mr. Thackeray (also Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray’s cousin) was downgraded from ‘Z’ to ‘Y-plus with escort’.

Besides Mr. Patil, the security detail of BJP leader and former Chief Minister Narayan Rane, former minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, and senior leader and spokesperson Madhav Bhandari has been withdrawn while that of former minister Ashish Shelar has been downgraded. Mr. Rane had a ‘Y-plus’ category security. Former minister Rajkumar Badole, BJP MLAs Prasad Lad and Ram Kadam, and former speaker and BJP legislator Haribhau Bagde have also lost their security cover.

“I have no complaints, but should anything ominous happen to any of us, then the Thackeray government will be responsible for it,” said an irate Mr. Rane, a former Shiv Sainik and a bitter critic of Mr. Uddhav Thackeray.

The security of State Lokayukta M.L. Tahiliani has been downgraded from ‘Z’ to ‘Y’ while those of Republican Party of India (A) chief Ramdas Athawale, a BJP ally, and that of Central Minister Raosaheb Danve have been downgraded as well.

“This politics of malice will have no impact on former CM Mr. Fadnavis and other BJP leaders who will continue to highlight the problems of people… This decision merely reflects the mindset of the Thackeray government. During the pandemic, it was Mr. Fadnavis who was travelling to every nook and corner of the State while Mr. Uddhav Thackeray was sitting at home,” State BJP spokesman Keshav Upadhye said. He added that Mr. Fadnavis was the first politician to reach Bhandara where 10 babies died in a hospital fire on Saturday.

While the State government has upgraded the security of two persons, downgraded those of 11, withdrawn the cover of 16 more, 13 persons have been added to the list of those provided official cover. Prominent among them are Sunetra Pawar, wife of Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, and Varun Sardesai, the secretary of the Yuva Sena and nephew of Mr. Uddhav Thackeray’s wife, Rashmi Thackeray. Both have been given an ‘X’ category security cover.

Senior advocate Ujjwal Nikam’s ‘Y-plus with escort’ cover has been upgraded to ‘Z’, while film actor and ex-BJP-turned Congress leader Shatrughan Sinha’s ‘Y-plus’ cover has been upgraded to ‘Y-plus with escort’.

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