Calcutta, Oct. 16: Mamata Banerjee’s convoy was lost for over 20 minutes in a dense forest in Jungle Mahal, once a Maoist den, sources close to the chief minister said.
“Her Scorpio was the first car in the convoy as there was no pilot vehicle. It missed a right turn from Lodhasuli that would have taken the chief minister and her entourage to Jhargram, where she was supposed to spend the night.
“Instead, the convoy continued to head straight towards Jharkhand for the next 20 minutes till someone pointed out the mistake and took a U-turn,” said a senior official.
Sources who were part of the five-car convoy said that although the security personnel suspected they were heading the wrong way, they did not point that out as Mamata decides her route herself and often makes last-minute changes to the itinerary.
“It is not always necessary that she will have to inform the escort vehicles of her last-minute plans. Since the VIP car was leading the convoy, it was practically impossible to detect whether the change in route was accidental or intentional,” a police officer said.
A pilot car leads a VIP convoy with a tail vehicle at the end. All other vehicles between these two cars, except the one carrying the VIP, are escorts.
Last night, Mamata’s convoy had the Scorpio, the tail vehicle and three escort cars carrying personnel of the special security wing (SSW), which looks after the security of VIPs in the state.
Asked why a pilot car, which could have co-ordinated the movement of Mamata’s vehicle, was not part of the convoy, some officers said it was according to the “wish” of the chief minister. Another section in the police said a pilot car could not be arranged because the trip was planned at a short notice and had taken officers by surprise.
According to the bluebook that defines the nature and extent of security a VIP should get, a Z-plus protectee like Mamata must have a pilot car, two escort vehicles, one spare car and a tail vehicle, an officer said.
While travelling in Calcutta, Mamata’s convoy usually doesn’t have the spare vehicle and instead of the pilot car, a shadow pilot car is used.
“According to her wishes, a shadow pilot car — a vehicle that is further away from her car than a pilot car should be — heads the convoy,” a senior SSW officer said.
According to protocol, during district tours, the local police are supposed to supply pilot vehicles as they know the topography well.
Apparently, neither Calcutta police nor their counterparts in Howrah, East and West Midnapore, through which Mamata travelled yesterday, could arrange for the pilot car on time.
Director of security Virendra and deputy commissioner (special branch) Deep Narayan Goswami, who is in charge of the chief minister’s security, neither took calls nor replied to text messages sent by this newspaper.