If it was rare for Rahul Gandhi to hitch a ride on a local train, it was even rarer for the Mumbai police to lose track of the one they were pursuing.
It happened minutes before the clock struck 1 pm on Friday.
Two grey Tata Safari SUVs, carrying Rahul and the Special Protection Group (SPG) officers travelling from Bhaidas Hall, Vile Parle to Ghatkopar, broke the convoy at an intersection. Caught unawares, drivers of the Mumbai police vehicles following the broken convoy screeched to a halt.
In the convoy was Police Commissioner D Sivanandhan.
Two minutes later, the wireless sets in their vehicles crackled to life with a direction from the police control room to follow Sivanandhan’s white Honda Civic. The Honda had started following Gandhi’s vehicle.
“It was then that we learnt that he [Rahul Gandhi] is going to Andheri station,” said a police officer, who was part of the convoy. “We were given very little time to react,” said Himanshu Roy, joint commissioner of police (law & order).
The only ones who knew about Gandhi’s plan were the SPG personnel. The only one in the 40,000-strong Mumbai police who the SPG had given a hint to was Sivanandhan.
SPG Director B. V. Wanchoo, Sivanandhan’s 1976 Indian Police Service batch mate, had told him that Gandhi might follow a ‘Plan B’.
“It was a plan B sort of situation,” Sivanandhan told HT. “The idea was to not have any elaborate arrangements.”
The police convoy, led by Sivanandhan, reached the bank near Andheri railway station minutes after Gandhi reached. The surprise tour of Mumbai police’s Close Protection Team ended with the police commissioner travelling in the train with Gandhi. Sivanandhan lost his badge and medal in the crowd. A constable later found them and returned them to Sivanandhan.