Security tightened for high-profile candidates in Indian elections
Special security measures are being put in place for more than 35 high-profile candidates contesting India's elections amid intelligence reports of possible terrorist attacks, news reports said Thursday.
India's five-phase general elections, spread between April 16 and May 13, are being held amid heightened threat perception, reported dpa.
"We have intelligence reports of possible terrorist attacks during elections and VIP security has been put on high alert," India's Junior Minister for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal said.
India's federal Home Minister P Chidambaram has warned the candidates as well as several leaders of political parties to take special precautions and avoid sudden changes to planned programmes, the PTI and IANS news agencies reported.
The list of potential targets includes the names of Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, her children Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi, opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader LK Advani, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
Chidamabaram held a meeting with Advani Thursday to clarify some issues regarding security measures.
Advani is the prime ministerial candidate for the BJP which leads the opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The NDA and the United Progressive Alliance led by the Congress Party are the two main alliances contesting the elections.
Meanwhile, the Times of India newspaper reported that security arrangements across the country had been beefed up after intelligence input suggested that a group of 20 people, including seven to eight trained pilots and at least a dozen women terrorists, had entered India to carry out attacks and hijackings.
The report, quoting an unnamed intelligence official, said the people entering India could be Pakistani nationals and they could be planning to disrupt elections.
Airports across the country had been placed on high alert, the report added.
A similar alert had been sounded earlier this year soon after the November 26 terrorist attack on the financial hub Mumbai that left more than 170 people dead.
Indian investigative agencies claim the three-day attack was carried out by a group of 10 terrorists who took a sea route to the city from Pakistan.
India's general elections have been staggered to enable optimum mobilization of security personnel on polling days in sensitive areas like terrorism-prone Jammu and Kashmir and regions affected by a Maoist insurgency.
An estimated 2.1 million police and paramilitary personnel are expected to fan out to protect candidates, election officials and voters.