Security agencies are having sleepless nights over Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani's Bharat Uday Yatra.
Advani will embark on a 32-day, 7872 kilometre long yatra from Kanyakumari on March 10, crisscrossing the country in an election road show that will end in Orissa on April 14.
Check out the route of Advani's yatra
A rath yatra led by Advani in 1990 in support of the construction of a Ram Temple at Ayodhya had resulted in communal passions running high and provoking Hindu-Muslim violence in some parts of the country.
The biggest concern of the agencies is how to give foolproof protection to Advani, who will mingle with a lot of people and address numerous election meetings.
Several experts and police officials rediff.com talked to said the local police and various security agencies are stretched thin during electioneering, making it difficult for them to provide the normal 'three rings' of security to the VIPs.
Last year, the Special Protection Group, which guards the prime minister and ex-prime ministers, wrote to the government requesting that VIP political leaders should not take unnecessary risks during public meetings.
"Security agencies have to take extra precautions to ensure that there will not be any communal fallout from Advani's latest rath yatra," Nikhil Kumar, former director general of National Security Guards, that protects VIP politicians like Advani told rediff.com
Kumar said Advani's new yatra should be seen into the context of his controversial 1990 rath yatra.
"We have a precedent in this regard. In 1990, when Advani undertook a rath yatra, it created a communal frenzy. Those who are undertaking a rath yatra should now ensure that no communal frenzy is created," Kumar said.
Advani has been given the top class security by the NSG. But Kumar, a former NSG chief, said, "There is no set guidelines for the security agencies to follow during an election campaign meeting when a VIP attends it. The security is provided to each venue according to the intelligence inputs from various agencies, including the local police forces."
Kumar, however, said that it is not as if the security agencies are not capable of or well equipped to protect VIPs during election meetings. It is only when VIP politicians run into crowds unannounced that security agencies are on tenterhooks, said Kumar.
Ajai Sahni, internal security expert and executive director of Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management agreed. "I think protecting Advani during his month-long election road show will be a great problem. The security forces will be overstretched, but this happens during elections which is a massive political affair in a country like India," he told rediff.com
According to Sahni, there is a clearly established rulebook in the Union home ministry, which lays down the security regulations a VIP politician of the stature of Advani should follow when they attend public meetings.
Sahni also does not find fault with the security agencies. "The agencies undertake multiple levels of security for people like Advani," he said.
Sahni insists that it is the politicians who always create security problems. "Take for example the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. He and the Congress local politicians refused to heed the police and intelligence instructions on security measures which resulted in the tragedy," Sahni said.
He warns that one of the principal points that every VIP politician should take is that he should not mingle with the crowds. "Politicians should also understand the pressure in which the security forces work, especially during the election time," he added.
Advani is also slated to address meetings in Coimbatore, which witnessed a series of bomb blasts during in last election meeting on February 14, 1998.
The bomb blasts in 19 locations in the city had left 60 people dead and more than 200 injured. The first of the blasts was on Shanmugham road in R S Puram, barely 100 metres from Advani's venue.