AS the General Election approaches, my heart goes out to the officials who will be involved in making arrangements to ensure smooth conduct of the polls and the bandobast for rallies by prominent politicians. I hope none of them will have to live through the consternation that I did a long time ago over the Prime Minister’s planned visit to (the then undivided) Bihar.
I was part of a team of Central Government officials that descended on Ranchi to liaise with state government officers to make arrangements for the PM’s visit to a town called Ghat Hamaria. The PM had agreed to visit the nondescript place because some apparatchik had prevailed upon him to go to his hometown and address a public gathering. We anticipated no problems in making the arrangements, but the task did not turn out to be that simple. Senior state government officials who had arrived from Patna told us that the Ghat Hamaria near Ranchi was a stronghold of the main Opposition party, while the ruling party boasted of a bigwig in another Ghat Hamaria, which was in north Bihar. The state government officials were certain that the PM would have been inveigled to visit the other Ghat Hamaria. In an age when there were no cellphones, frantic trunk calls were made between Ranchi, Patna and Delhi to clear the air. But even after waiting for almost two days, there was no confirmation from Delhi as to which Ghat Hamaria would be fortunate to host the PM. We gathered that no one really knew and that possibly even the PM did not remember which leader had spoken to him about visiting which Ghat Hamaria.
With barely a week to go for the visit, we toyed with the idea of making arrangements at both places. But this was quickly abandoned because of logistical reasons. Finally, the Central and state officials cooped up in the circuit house hatched a ‘conspiracy’. We decided to go ahead and plan for the Prime Minister’s visit to the Ghat Hamaria near Ranchi because it was well connected by road, unlike the one in north Bihar. It was a calculated risk that was worth taking because, at worst, it would invite the ire of the party heavyweight from north Bihar. The unacceptable alternative was to keep waiting and compromise on the PM’s security.
But when the time arrived, there was an unexpected political development and the Prime Minister’s visit was cancelled. All of us camping in Ranchi heaved a sigh of relief and returned home. Though no formal written covenant had been executed, there was an explicit understanding that all officers party to the skulduggery of choosing one Ghat Hamaria over the other would forever hold their tongue and never talk about the matter. By speaking up now, more than three decades later, I am quite certain I am not violating my oath of omerta.
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