It’s the end of the road for Congress star campaigners Sonia and Rahul Gandhi as far as roadshows are concerned. "Roadshows are too risky," explained a Congress leader.
Home minister P Chidambaram was informed about the "very high" threat perception to India's top political leaders at a meeting with Special Protection Group (SPG) director BV Wanchoo.
The SPG, which provides security to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the Gandhi family, has for long been uncomfortable with the roadshows as the leaders frequently make unscheduled stops and step out of their vehicles to mingle with the supporters.
Officials responsible for VIPs' security arrangements recall the November 2007 arrest of three Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists by a special team of the Uttar Pradesh Police. The militants told interrogators that they had planned to abduct and hold Rahul Gandhi hostage to negotiate release of nearly 40 captured terrorists.
Recent intelligence inputs have forced the security agencies to raise the risk perception to "very high," especially following intercepts of Pakistan-based terrorist groups post-26/11 attacks. Chidambaram has already cautioned the political leaders about this.
Besides the risk factor, Congress leaders said the tight schedule was also working against the roadshows. Once Sonia and Rahul file their nominations, the road ahead is fraught with hectic, non-stop electioneering. In fact Rahul, who kicked off his political career with a roadshow from Lucknow to Sultanpur, will address more rallies than his mother — four against Sonia's two to three — in a single day. The party's prime ministerial candidate Manmohan Singh is expected to address one or two rallies a day at the most.