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Convoy slip-up cops face heat

New Delhi, Jan. 29: Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s aides are furious with Delhi police for last night’s security breach, when a drunk driver joined the Prime Minister’s cavalcade as he was returning home from the airport after a day-long visit to Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

“Heads will have to roll for this terrible lapse by the Delhi police,” an angry official said.

The government’s anger is understandable. “This kind of a major security lapse even after the attack on Parliament cannot go unpunished,” a senior bureaucrat said. But the Special Protection Group (SPG), the elite force entrusted with the Prime Minister’s security, has been absolved. “They provide close-range security, they are not responsible for manning the roads taken by the Prime Minister,” the official explained.

Delhi police commissioner R.S. Gupta ruled out a terrorist angle. “It was just a case of impatient persons wanting to move out fast,” he told agencies. He also disagreed that it was a breach of the Prime Minister’s security, saying “it was only a violation of rules and they have suffered”.

The police commissioner’s remarks, quoted by the agencies, infuriated many officials. “What does he mean by ‘it was only a traffic violation’' It could have been terrorists in that car,” said an official.

This is the third incident in quick succession of the Prime Minister’s security umbrella being breached. On January 20, when Vajpayee was returning from a trip to the Andamans, a red Maruti van almost hit the pilot car of his motorcade before escaping into the night. Delhi police were unable to trace the car and blamed the thick fog for the getaway. Earlier, a Lufthansa cargo plane had violated the no-fly security zone over 7, Race Course Road, the Prime Minister’s residence.

The police have arrested two men — Ashok Kumar and Dharen Singh — who were inside the white Esteem that tried to overtake one of the cars in the Prime Minister’s motorcade last night. A woman occupant was let off.

Cases of rash and negligent driving and interfering in the working of public servants were registered against them at the Delhi Cantonment police station. Both Kumar and Singh were drunk as they drove into Rao Tula Ram Marg when Vajpayee’s cavalcade was passing.

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