At least four past and present chief ministers are likely to lose their NSG security cover with the home ministry deciding to prune the list of politicians guarded by the elite commandos trained for counter-terror and anti-hijacking operations.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav besides former Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad, former Tamil Nadu CM M Karunanidhi and former Assam CM Tarun Gogoi could now be protected by a paramilitary force, multiple home ministry sources told HT.
Though protection for top political leaders is based on threat perception, over the years it has become a status symbol for many leaders and earlier attempts to prune the list of NSG protected people had to be dropped due to opposition.
In India, VIP security is provided under four categories -- z plus, z, y and x categories.
The Prime Minister, former PMs and their immediate family members are guarded by the Special Protection Group (SPG) while NSG protectees fall in the Z plus category.
Those protected by the NSG are entitled to a bullet-proof vehicle, two escort vehicles and around 40 personnel each.
At present, 15 politicians are under NSG protection including former deputy prime minister LK Advani, home minister Rajnath Singh and leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad.
A home ministry official said the names for withdrawal of NSG cover was discussed last week in a meeting of the protection review group headed by home secretary Rajiv Mehrishi. “The final approval from home minister Rajnath Singh is awaited.”
The initial list considered by the group included former chief ministers PK Mahanta and Farooq Abdullah and Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, sources said.
A senior NSG official said the practice of deputing counter-terror commandos as guards “is very demoralising for them”.
The official added the force has been continuously raising the issue of pruning down the number of protectees with home ministry.
“The home ministry does a periodic review of all protectees according to the latest threat assessment,” said minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju.