On Saturday, I had to pass through three metal-detectors. Because the prime minister was in town and because I was attending his functions.
First at the Nehru Planetatium, where the journalists were having a seminar and the prime minister was to attend the last part of it. As it happened, he did not come. Then, next-door, at the Nehru Hall, where the prime minister was participating in what was advertised as a national debate. Though how can there be a national debate when everything is being done on a national consensus, I do not know. Finally, at the US (which stands for United Service, meaning army, navy, air-force) Club, where the prime minister and his guests were entertained to music (Bhimsen Joshi), art (B.Vithal) and dinner (Taj).
Everybody was perfectly polite. The security officers said: "Sir, would you please pass through this." Or they would say: "May I see your pass, please. Sorry for the trouble, sir." The pass was nothing more than a letter inviting me to several functions, signed by Mr. Ayub Syed, the editor of the Current, which should indicate how powerful a person he is, not only is he close to the PM, but with one signature he can bring others close to the PM.
Security was there all around, but not that oppressive type of security that was flaunted about when Mr. Rajiv Gandhi used to visit the city. Cars were not towed off the roads where the PM was to pass through (I got a taxi on the main road right outside the Nehru Centre while the PM was to pass through (I got a taxi on the main road right outside the Centre while the PM was still there), and there were to dozen indential vehicles flashing along the road, making it difficult for the assassin to know which vehicle the PM was travelling in. I do not think there is any percentage in being a prime minister if you are going to go around in a bullet-proof jacket for five years.
Mr. V.P. Singh's visit, except for the metal-detectors, and the policemen scattered along the route to the US Club, which actually made it easier for you to find your destination, was much less intimidating. You could breathe in rhe PM's presence and go near enough to touch him and you could almost sit with him at dinner.
A lot of people did sit at the prime minister's table without undue fuss about protocol or security. I did not, because I like to keep my distance from the prime minister, whether he is Mr. V.P. Singh or Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. If it was Mr. L.K. Advani, I may consider.