The strident xenophobic voices from some Hindu hardliners opposing her candidature over the last week forced the IB to go through an exhaustive drill detailing all the inherent dangers to Ms Gandhi and members of her immediate family. The agency felt that besides the SPG protection every prime minister has, extra precautions would have to be taken in her case because the voices against her taking on the prime ministerial job were getting "increasingly strident".
The volley of protests—starting with the outburst of the Adamar math seer, Vibhudhesha Tirtha Swamiji, exhorting his disciples to launch a second Quit India movement, to the VHP's pitch to recruit Mahatama Gandhi look-alikes and use them for "Sonia-bashing" and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj threatening to tonsure her head and drape herself in a white sari—had all the potential to gather momentum. "There is no dearth of fanatical elements in this country. Some of these motivated fringe groups can instigate individuals," IB sources told Outlook. In fact, the IB was closely monitoring all developments in the anti-Sonia campaign around the country. "We were wondering if trouble would spread after the suicide of a businessman, Mahesh Prabhu, near Bangalore protesting Ms Gandhi becoming prime minister. Luckily it didn't," says an IB official. Adds another top-ranking official: "With the decks cleared for her to take over as prime minister, the SPG top brass had been told of this new threat appraisal and this would have been unofficially communicated to Ms Gandhi."
According to the IB, this enhanced threat perception would have applied to her children too. "Our assessment was that limitations would be placed on Ms Gandhi's movements as well as her children. There would have been restrictions and this was in keeping with our understanding of the unfolding security scenario," said an IB official in charge of vip security.
This is not the first time that the threat assessment to Sonia Gandhi's life has gone up. In May 1999, Congress leaders Arjun Singh and Pranab Mukherjee demanded extra security for the Congress president following the revelation of a plot to kill her. In a letter to the then President, K.R. Narayanan, they alleged that "some fascist clique" was trying to target Ms Gandhi through another "diabolical plan". The BJP government had to tighten her security following these allegations.