The change of guard at the corridors of power in New Delhi may also signal a change in the chariot of the most powerful man in India. Prime Minister-inwaiting Narendra Modi has reportedly voiced his preference for his trusted cavalcade of armoured Mahindra Scorpios.
“Modiji has used armoured Scorpios during his campaigns around the country and also when he was the chief minister of Gujarat, and wants to retain them when he assumes office at 7 Race Course Road,” a senior leader closely associated with Modi told Hindustan Times. “It is, however, subject to approval from the Special Protection Group, which is responsible for his security.”
Since 2003, the Prime Minister of the country has been ferried around in an armoured BMW 7 series flanked by a clutch of other armoured BMWX5 SUVs manned by the SPG that is in-charge of security for all high-designation officials in India. Before 2003, the humble Hindustan Motors Ambassador used to be the symbol of power, but the SPG had strengthened the security needs in view of the heightened threat perception, paving the way for the German luxury cars that are preferred by many heads of states worldwide. President Pranab Mukherjee uses an armoured Mercedes S Class.
Modi, however, feels at ease in an India-made Scorpio, and prefers the high seating position of the vehicle that gives him a commanding view of the road ahead. He also likes to sit in front, next to the driver.
The armoured car used for the Prime Minister of India is a highly sophisticated machine that is capable of withstanding modern day terror attacks. The exact details of the security systems equipped in the car are never made public, but the custom-made armoured BMW 7 series uses an intelligent combination of lightweight and robust materials that meet the strictest safety requirements while adding as little weight as possible.
The vehicle’s numerous safety f eatures include run-flat tyres, self-sealing fuel tank, attack alarm, and an intercom system, which enables the occupants communicate with the outside world without leaving the vehicle or opening the doors or windows. The car is capable of withstand-hand grenades, pistol or rifle fire, including an AK-47 attack, and even modern day chemical weapon or gas strikes. The vehicle also has an emergency oxygen cylinder inside.
Mahindra and Mahindra, which is India’s largest supplier of armoured vehicles, said it is capable of making the Scorpios as robust as possible and will contact the SPG to understand the enhancements required. It said the cars can be made available in 12-14 weeks time after the SPG approves all the processes.
“Mr Modi as the CM of Gujarat has used ar moured Scor pios for over six years. It will be a matter of pride and honour for us and I think for the nation if he decides to continue to use the Scorpio vehicle even as the Prime Minister,” said Dr Pawan Goenka, executive director and president (automotive and farm equipment sectors), Mahindra and Mahindra.