The bee team is India's new political weapon
India's politicians are resorting to a new 'weapon' for settling scores - bees - forcing security agencies responsible for protecting VIPs to fall back on age-old methods for sanitising indoor and outdoor venues of their public engagements.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati has lodged a criminal case against unidentified political rivals for hatching a conspiracy to unleash bees at her public rally in the state capital, Lucknow, last week.
Although the chief minister was not stung, a few bees hovered menacingly close to Mayawati's face for several minutes, throwing her bodyguards into a tizzy.
On Friday, the elite Special Protection Group, which is responsible for the security of the prime minister, former prime ministers and their families, destroyed honeycombs and smoked the insects out ahead of an indoor meeting chaired by Rahul Gandhi, son of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi and seen by many as a future leader, in his parliamentary constituency, Amethi, in Uttar Pradesh.
'Although Mr Gandhi's meeting in Sultanpur, Amethi, with administrative officials was a closed-door affair, we did not want to take any chances in light of the bee invasion at Ms Mayawati's rally', an SPG official said.
The official revealed plans to deploy insect repellent and keep ambulances ready at mass rallies to counter bee attacks. Consultations with the state horticulture department are also under way.
Mayawati, who belongs to the Bahujan Samaj Party, complained to the police that the opposition released a swarm of bees to cause her physical harm and disrupt her rally.
Police official Rajiv Krishna, who is handling the chief minister's complaint, said: 'Our investigations show that somebody deliberately knocked down a hive with thousands of bees to cause a stampede in the Ramabai grounds. Scores of people might have been trampled to death in the melee.'
'The culprits obviously belong to the opposition but we are yet to zero in on them.'
Wildlife expert R.P. Sharma said a crackdown on bees might lead to a shortage of honey in northern India.
'Much more than honey is at stake. Bees are important pollinators of flowers and crops. The insects also produce wax for candles', Mr Sharma said.