Despite the early morning 22-km safari in Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR), Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s luck failed him. Not a single tiger was to be seen during 7.15 am to 9.30 am Sunday drive.
In the blame game that ensued thereon, a lion’s share fell on the shoulder of 29-year-old Madhusudhan, driver of the vehicle the PM travelled in. Some BJP leaders and senior officials of the forest department even 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.
However, putting all speculation to rest, BTR Director Ramesh Kumar stated: “All the talk about the registration of the vehicle being cancelled is untrue. The vehicle number being circulated is an old one and it has already expired. That vehicle has not been in use since a while. Madhusudan is not at fault. In fact, the security drills on the chosen route hampered the sighting.”
Significantly, the PM’s security staff, Special Protection Group (SPG), the local police, the anti-Naxal force and other teams went on multiple safaris on the same route for five days before the PM’s tour.
“As such, the felines got used to vehicles moving on that route and stayed away. In fact, on all five days, team members reported seeing tigers on the route. Unfortunately, the PM was able to see only some fresh tiger pugmarks, but no tiger,” he added.
It is now learnt that the security teams were eating, sleeping and camping on the identified route. Plus, the PM’s safari vehicle was initially planned 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. Tigers and leopards were sighted and photographed. However, all this interfered with animal movements,” added another official part of the deputation team to show the PM around BTR.
Luckily, the last drill planned for Saturday night was called off and that is why the “PM was able to see a herd of around 40 elephants, 20-30 Gaurs, around 30 Sambar deers,” added the official.
After the safari, the PM is reported to have 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.
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