A wall separates Dispur Government Higher Secondary School from a camp of the Sashastra Seema Bal. But that does not guarantee foolproof security for India’s most high-profile tenants.
The SPG has thus ‘sanitized’ the houses, two hospitals, a hotel, sundry shops and a cowshed around the 75m long narrow lane connecting the school and Guwahati-Shillong Road. The police and plainclothesmen have likewise combed clean the rest of the 3 km stretch from the school to the helipad in the Khanapara locality in Guwahati.
On the other hand, the tenants’ rented house barely a kilometer from the school has a lone policeman standing guard. Even the landlady – Hemoprova Saikia, widow of former Assam chief minister Hiteswar Saikia – of House Number 3989 is away at Nazira in eastern Assam. It’s obvious that her absentee tenants of 18 years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife
Gursharan Kaur, will not be “coming home”.
That is a let down for Saikia’s neighbours at Nandan Nagar in the Sarumotoria locality. But Harish Kataki, presiding officer of the polling station at Dispur Government HS School, isn’t complaining. He is aware of the “huge responsibility” when electors number 726 and 727 come flying in a special chopper to cast on Thursday their votes at “my centre”.
Against these two numbers in the electoral rolls under Dispur Assembly seat one of 10 under Guwahati LS constituency are the names of the PM and his wife respectively.
“Security isn’t as much of a concern as trying to ensure the other voters are not inconvenienced at the polling centre while the PM is here,” Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner Prateek Hajela told Hindustan Times.
Singh and Kaur would be two of 172029433 voters who would be exercising their franchise across Assam’s 11 LS constituencies in Phase 2B of polling on Thursday.
Interestingly, the PM would be casting his vote after over a decade. He skipped the 2004 Lok Sabha and the 2006 Assembly elections despite campaigning extensively for the Congress.
In 2006, Singh and Kaur were in the Northeast a day before polling, but did not stay back. This triggered widespread criticism with the BJP and Asom Gana Parishad stating he had failed to set an example and take part in the
democratic process to deal a moral blow to secessionist groups.
Singh, notably, has been elected four times as a Rajya Sabha member from Assam since 1991. That year, Hiteswar Saikia had made Singh his tenant overnight to ensure his eligibility. Singh was paying an annual rent of Rs 7000 until it was revised upwardly after he became PM.