Politicians , security & elections

Gunmen give politicians larger-than-life image

M B Maramkal | TNN

Bellary: Call it a status symbol or a security threat, it has become a common phenomenon among netas campaigning for the upcoming Bellary bypoll to seek armed gunmen for their security — at the cost of the state exchequer. If one notices a gun-toting policemen around, the people of Bellary are convinced that a politician is canvassing nearby.

Bellary has the highest number of politicians who have securitymen at their elbow, thanks to the powerful Reddy brothers, who started the trend. Now, at least 120 gunmen have been deputed by the government to protect politicians in the district.

Interestingly, villagers view these gunmen as aliens as they follow their bosses on their campaign trails. Children are particularly curious, and surround these gunmen to have a close glimpse at the assault rifles they carry.
It’s just not prominent politicians who face real threats to their lives but also independent candidates who have got rifle-wielding gunmen to guard them. “In our village we’ve never seen rifles and villagers flock meeting places to see gunmen who stylishly stand behind politicians,” Ramakanth, a local politician from Sangankallu village says, though he doubts the genuineness of the threat perception of these politicians.

In addition to these gunmen, politicians like the Reddy brothers and Sriramulu have hired private security guards and supplied them with licensed assault rifles.
These trained guards are hired from private security agencies who pay them monthly salaries ranging between Rs 15,000 and Rs 25,000. Interestingly, these men are usually tribals known for their character and physique.
“Who will attack these politicians? Karnataka is neither Bihar nor Uttar Pradesh, it is safe for politicians,” scoffs Shivareddy, a farmer from Siruguppa who resides in Bellary town. He terms the security cover a “gimmick” to give the politician a larger than life image.
Bellary SP Dr Chandraguptha said he had provided armed policemen with assault rifles to all eight candidates in the Bellary bypoll fray, as the administration cannot risk their lives.

“A committee in Bangalore provides security to people who seek it. I am going to review the situation after the bypoll,” he said, adding that he will write to the committee to withdraw security cover to those who don’t really need it.

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