As part of the changes, the Maharashtra government withdrew “categorised” security cover to 25 leaders of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) coalition, while ensuring Y-plus security for all MLAs loyal to Chief Minister Eknath Shinde.
This means that all 51 in the Shinde camp (including nine ministers) are now entitled to four security personnel in two shifts along with a security vehicle.
Among those left out of the security umbrella now are state NCP chief Jayant Patil, state Congress chief Nana Patole and the two jailed former NCP ministers, Anil Deshmukh and Nawab Malik. The long list further includes Chhagan Bhujbal, Anil Parab, Sunil Kedar, Nitin Raut, Bhaskar Jadhav, Narhari Zirwal, Vijay Waddetiwar, Satej Patil, Balasaheb Thorat, Sanjay Raut and Varun Sardesai. Sardesai is the leader of the Yuva Shiv Sena and a close relative of Uddhav Thackeray.
Interestingly, the Y-plus security of former housing minister Jitendra Awhad of the NCP was retained, whereas that of a close Uddhav aide, Milind Narwekar, has been scaled up to Y-plus. Narwekar has cordial relations with Fadnavis, and got the BJP’s support in the Mumbai Cricket Association elections.
As per protocol, the Y-plus security cover of former chief ministers Prithviraj Chavan and Ashok Chavan, as well as Uddhav and his family, has been retained, along with the security of NCP president and another former CM Sharad Pawar, his daughter Supriya Sule (an MP), and Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar.
While senior Home Department officials argue that the security of any individual is based on ground reality, and the threat perception is “periodically reviewed”, what has the Opposition up in arms is the decision on Y-plus security to all the 41 MLAs of the Shinde Sena plus the 10 Independents in his camp.
A close Shinde aide admitted that the move was meant to both keep the flock together, as well as ensure that it doesn’t stray. “All 51 MLAs who are supporting Shinde are being guarded to ward off poaching threats by the Uddhav Sena… the government may have played safe. Secondly, by deploying adequate police personnel, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde wants to convey a strong message to his rivals that he cares and looks after his associates.”
The aide also suggests that the move may have been prompted by the BJP. “With 24×7 police cover, its top leadership can track the movement of every individual in the Shinde camp.” The Home portfolio is with BJP leader and Deputy CM Fadnavis.
A senior BJP functionary puts it differently. “As the Home Department is with the Deputy CM,” he says, “it’s Fadnavis’s duty to ensure the well-being of every member supporting the alliance government… The Home Minister has great responsibility on his shoulders. He has to remain alert at all times to see that his coalition government is intact.”
BJP insiders said that they don’t want to find themselves in a situation similar to the MVA government’s. “It was caught napping when Shinde led the revolt, and 51 members walked out. As a result, their government fell,” a leader said.
Slamming the government’s decision to provide security to all Shinde Sena MLAs, even when withdrawing the same for MVA leaders, state Congress chief Patole said, “The government has deliberately done so and exposed them to threats. It is a tactic to curb their political aggression and activities.”
Aaditya Thackeray of the Uddhav Sena has also questioned the government’s decision. Sources in the party pointed out: “Varun Sardesai was taking a lead in street agitations against both the BJP and Shinde factions. By withdrawing his security cover, the state government has subjected him to risk.”
A former NCP minister took a jibe at the BJP’s “insecurity” regarding the Shinde MLAs. “The security cover is not out of concern for them alone, but also to keep a close watch on their activities.” As per the NCP leader, it is a message from the BJP camp that while it might have conceded the chief ministership to Shinde, it is still the big brother of the coalition.
While NCP leaders refused to comment on the government’s decision to continue security for Awhad and Narwekar, state party chief Jayant Patil said: “If security cover is based on assessment, there is nothing wrong. It should not be politically driven.”
Denying the Opposition’s claims, Fadnavis said, “Every decision of the Home Ministry and police force is based on an established mechanism. There are well-laid parameters. The authorities concerned took the decision after a thorough assessment of these factors. Those attributing political motives are making baseless charges, which undermines the system.”