Govt withdraws SPG security to Rahul, Sonia Gandhi

Cong says PM, HM blinded by political vendetta

Congress party President Sonia Gandhi, party leader Rahul Gandhi and General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. (PTI Photo)

In a controversial decision that immediately invited protests, Government has withdrawn the Special Protection Group (SPG) cover given to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, 28 years after they were brought under the top-most security ring following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The Gandhi family will now be given 'Z+' security cover of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) across the country, official sources said on Friday even as Congress accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah of being "blinded by political vendetta" while Youth Congress and NSU(I) activists staged a protest outside the latter's residence.

Sources said the decision was taken after a review about threat perception found that there was a need to scale down of their security cover and there was no need for SPG cover. With this, the nearly 3,000 strong SPG will now be guarding Prime Minister Narendra Modi only.

Under the Z+ security cover by CRPF, the Gandhi family will have CRPF commandos in close proximity besides guards at their homes and where ever they travel in the country. SPG protectees are provided with guards, hi-tech vehicles, jammers and an ambulance in their carcade.

The withdrawal of Gandhi family's security cover by SPG, which was established in 1985 after Indira Gandhi's assassination, comes two months after the government took a similar measure with regard to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Sources also claimed that the Gandhi family was non-cooperative towards the SPG by providing their travel plans at the "eleventh hour" on many occasions making arrangements impossible for the force and flouted rules.

Congress on its part said that the SPG had on three occasions in 2018 and 2019 wrote to Rahul about the possible threat to him from Khalistani terrorists, Maoists and terrorists from Kashmir and the north-east. "BJP has descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism, compromising the lives of family members of two former Prime Ministers to acts of terror and violence," senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted.

Gandhi family was provided security cover by SPG after Rajiv's assassination in May 1991 by amending the SPG Act. Till then, only Prime Ministers and their families got SPG cover while the amendments ensured that former Prime Ministers and their family too got SPG cover.

The protection by the elite force to former prime ministers and their family are reviewed annually after completion of first year out of office.

As per the initial law, the SPG cover for a prime minister is withdrawn immediately after he demits office. After Rajiv's assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, the SPG Act was amended to include former Prime Ministers and their family for ten years after demitting office.

Later in 2003, it was once again amended that any former Prime Minister or to the members of his immediate family would get SPG cover for a period of one year from the date on which the former Prime Minister ceased to hold office. Beyond one year, it said, the SPG cover will be extended based on the level of threat as decided by the central government.

While deciding the level of threat, the amendment said, the Centre should take into account factors like whether the threat emanates from any militant or terrorist organisation or any other source and that the threat is of a"grave and continuing" nature. 

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