Did security drill scare away tigers ahead of PM Modi’s safari?
The official said the felines have got used to vehicles moving on that route.
BENGALURU: Prime Minister Narendra Modi couldn’t spot a single tiger or any big cat while on his 22-km safari in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR) from 7.15 am to 9.30 am on Sunday. The hapless 29-year-old driver of the vehicle the PM travelled in, Madhusudhan, is being blamed and some BJP leaders and senior officials of the forest department have demanded that action be taken against him for not choosing a route where tigers could be spotted. There were also tweets about the registration of the vehicle in which the PM travelled being cancelled.
Interestingly, it has now emerged that the blame almost rests on members of PM’s security staff, the Special Protection Group (SPG), the local police, the anti-Naxal force and every other team that went on multiple safaris on the same route for five days before the PM’s tour.
A senior BTR official confirmed to The New Indian Express that the teams that were doing rounds on that route for “security purposes” were able to spot tigers on all five days prior to PM’s trip. But the PM was able to see only some fresh tiger pugmarks, but no tiger. The members of those security teams reportedly also took pictures of the big cats.
The official said the felines have gotten used to vehicles moving on that route. Only this time (Sunday), they could have moved to safer and quieter areas when the Prime Minister was in the vehicle driven by Madhusudhan.
“They were eating, sleeping and camping on the identified route. Citing security, they also wanted PM’s safari vehicle to be in the middle of the convoy. We had to plead with them that sightings would be the best from the lead vehicle. To check this, the security teams went on additional safari rounds. After they saw tigers and leopards and even photographed them, they were convinced that Modi should be in the lead vehicle,” said the official. The BTR staff had pleaded with the security teams to let the route remain undisturbed on Saturday night so that animal movements were not hindered.
PM Modi missed tiger by a whisker
“Some good sense must have prevailed and the last drill (on Saturday night) did not happen. This is why Modi was able to at least see a herd of around 40 elephants, 20-30 Gaurs, around 30 sambar deer, and other wildlife… but missed a tiger by a whisker — which was the main reason for the safari,” said the official.
After the safari, the PM politely complained to the BTR officials about not sighting a single tiger or any wild cat. When informed why it could be so, the PM turned on his security staff and pointedly reminded them that they had deprived him of a tiger/wild cat sighting.
BTR Director Ramesh Kumar told The New Indian Express, “Claims that the registration of the vehicle being cancelled is wrong. The vehicle number that is circulating is an old one. The vehicle is no more in use. Madhusudhan is not at fault. In the name of high security, vehicles repeatedly went on the selected route, hampering the sightings.”
Excited and jittery, Madhusudhan, who is still having goosebumps after driving the PM, told The New Indian Express: “Sightings in forests is just luck. When I did the trial run on Friday and Saturday for the security teams, two tigers were sighted. In fact, the PM saw fresh tiger pugmarks, but just missed the tiger. I followed the route as my boss told me. I was so scared that I couldn’t even talk to the PM. All my focus and attention was on his safety.”