Whether for security or sport, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ministers seem to have a particular fondness for guns with 12 of them possessing Indian and imported pistols, rifles or revolvers pegged at between Rs 3,000 to Rs 3 lakh. Moreover, nine of these 12 have two or more weapons, an assessment of 'assets' affidavits of the ministers and MPs reveal.
Among the lot, the most expensive gun is owned by the Minister of State forAgriculture and Food Processing Sanjeev Kumar Balyan who possesses a revolver costing Rs 3 lakh. Next is Minister of Mines Narendra Singh Tomar who has a revolver worth Rs 1.57 lakh and a rifle priced at Rs 52,000. Minister of Chemical and Fertilisers Nihalchand has a revolver worth Rs 1.5 lakh and a Rs 50,000 .315 bore rifle.
Others in the list are Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Textile Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha, Drinking Water and Sanitation Minister Ram Kripal Yadav, Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh and Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawaar Chand Gehlot.
The passion for guns is not limited to Modi's council of ministers. Seventy-five members of the Lok Sabha possess guns, revolvers or rifles, and 65 of these are from the ruling BJP. These MPs are mostly from Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, documents reveal.
In terms of numbers, Olympic shooting medalist and Minister of State for Home Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore tops the list with 12 guns. The ace shooter has received several pistols and a rifle as a prize. Second to him is BJD MP Pratyusha Rajeshwari Singh with six arms, including rifles and revolvers, followed by BJP MP Dileep Singh Bhuria with four.
Interestingly, sadhus among MPs too have a liking for guns. While Swami Sachidanand Hari Sakshi has a .32 bore revolver, an NP bore rifle and a 12 bore gun, Yogi Adityanath has a revolver and rifle.
MPs other than from BJP who possess licenced arms are Congress' Vincent H Pala and Ravneet Singh Bittu; AAP's Bhagwant Mann; TRS' BB Patil, SP's Shailesh Kumar and Apna Dal's Kuwar Harivansh Singh and RJD's Shailesh Kumar.
These ministers and MPs own various range of weapons, including 12 bore, 32 bore and .315 bore rifles, US-made field rifles and different types of revolvers.
In 2012, RTI activist Ambrish Pandey along with Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR) and National Election Watch (NEW) had revealed that 756 guns seized by customs were sold to MPs and VIPs on a first come, first served basis from 1987 to 2012. The guns were sold below the market price.
An analysis shows that of the 65 BJP MPs owning guns, over two dozen have licences for two or more weapons. These include Ram Kripal Yadav, Radha Mohan Singh, Om Prakash Yadav, Dharambir, Anurag Singh Thakur, Laxman Giluwa, Prahlad Singh Patel, Uday Pratap Singh, Nagendra Singh, Anoop Mishra, Vincent H Pala, Nihalchand, Santosh Gangwar, Virendra Singh, Jagdambika Pal, Rajvir Singh, Ashok Kumar Doharey, Mukesh Rajput, Vijay Kumar Singh, Kirti Vardhan Singh, Adityanath, Krishna Pratap, Keshav Prasad, Nepal Singh, Sharad Tripathi, Rajesh Kumar Singh and Feroze Varun Gandhi.
While one rifle or revolver is enough for security, one wonders why a politician would need two or more weapons!
Queries to most of the ministers remained unanswered.
However, Minister of State for Human Resource Development Ram Shankar Katheria told dna that the revolver had been with him since 2001 after the brutal murder of his father Sonelal in 1998 and brother Ram Gopal in 2001. He had got it for self-defence and has licence from the Uttar Pradesh government. Katheria got security in 2009 when he was elected MP from Agra.
Jaskirat Singh of ADR put it this way: "In a country like India where the public remain without security and firearms, it is really unfortunate that MPs and ministers who have security feel the need for guns."