|8 Civil Lines, the official residence of Rajasthan chief minister; (above) Vasundhara Raje’s current residence No. 13 Civil Lines where she has decided to stay put despite assuming charge. Pictures by Surendra Jain Paras
Jaipur, Jan. 2: A commoner has shown the way to an ex-royal.
Rajasthan police have halved Vasundhara Raje’s security detail, following an order from the chief minister who wants the force to focus on the safety of the man on the street.
The BJP leader, who stormed back to power in the recent Assembly elections after five years in the Opposition, had apparently told state police chief Omendra Bharadwaj that public security should get top priority.
The commoner touch is just one among a host of decisions Raje has taken over the past month, though unlike her Delhi counterpart Arvind Kejriwal — the original aam aadmi chief minister — she didn’t take the tube to her swearing-in on December 13.
It’s another matter that Jaipur doesn’t have Metro connectivity yet, but the parallels are plenty, including the security bit.
Police sources said they had already recalled half of Raje’s security staff and started deploying officers taken off to other places. “After the chief minister’s orders, we are making necessary arrangements,” DGP Bharadwaj said. “The exact numbers will have to be worked out but it (the reduction) will be fairly large.”
Raje enjoys Z-class security, which usually involves 22 personnel.
G.L. Sharma, the DIG handling the chief minister’s security, refused to divulge how many personnel would be taken off the core ring, saying it was highly classified information and couldn’t be shared.
Kejriwal had turned down the Z-class security offered by Delhi police, writing to them: “God is my biggest security.”
Raje hasn’t invoked divinity like the Aam Aadmi Party leader but the chief minister, accused of being arrogant and inaccessible during her earlier tenure between 2003 and 2008, believes that going plebeian is the best bet in this season of sweeping broom power.
She has decided not to shift to 8 Civil Lines, the chief minister’s official residence, but stay put at No. 13, which she got as leader of the Opposition. Her followers say Raje wants to remain connected with the people and mingle with the masses.
The 3.21-lakh sqft chief minister’s house, apart from being huge, has many checkpoints that act as barriers between her and the people. Raje’s current residence measures about 1.46 lakh square feet.
Raje’s detractors say the “superstitious” chief minister has been advised by astrologers to stick to No. 13 Civil Lines, which has proved lucky for her. Remember, one of her critics pointed out, she took oath on December 13?
Ashok Gehlot, the man Raje toppled, said the chief minister’s official residence was a familiar landmark and the infrastructure required for administrative staff, security personnel and a 24-hour power back-up plant would be difficult to replicate elsewhere.
The former Congress chief minister also took a dig at Raje, saying a lot of money had been spent on creating the facilities at No. 8, which should be utilised.
Raje had earlier renovated the residence and even had a Japanese Jacuzzi installed.
Officials said the chief minister’s residence would be converted into a state guesthouse.
Raje has asked officials not to waste money on renovating her current residence, though a high boundary wall and a separate area for staff and visitors would have to be added.
Raje has also been waiting at traffic signals so that she doesn’t inconvenience other commuters. She has restricted her cavalcade to two or three cars. Earlier, whenever she used to travel, other cars had to wait at least 20 to 25 minutes till her motorcade passed.
Sources in the traffic police said the constant wireless messages that used to go out during Raje’s earlier stint in power before she stepped out of home or office had also stopped, though the wait and the frenetic crackle of walkie-talkies marked the tenure of other chief ministers as well.
Raje has also decided not to travel by special flights — unless it is an emergency. She will take scheduled flights, just like a commoner.