New Delhi: In a move that is set to snowball into a major political controversy, the Special Protection Group security cover of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her two children, Rahul and Priyanka, has been withdrawn by the Centre, replacing it with “Z-plus” security, to be provided by the CRPF.
Sources said the SPG cover for the Gandhi family was withdrawn after a detailed review meeting on their threat perception carried out by multiple Intelligence and security agencies.
While the move triggered protests by Congress workers outside the residence of home minister Amit Shah, senior party leader Ahmed Patel said the BJP had “descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism”.
In a tweet, Patel said, “The BJP has descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism, compromising the lives of family members of 2 former Prime Ministers to acts of terror and violence.”
This means the SPG will now protect only Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the SPG security cover of former PM Manmohan Singh had also been withdrawn a few months ago.
Sonia Gandhi and her two children were provided the SPG cover after the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991. The SPG Act was amended for this to cover former PMs and their families. Thus, after a long spell of 28 years, the Gandhis will no longer be SPG protectees, but their Z-plus security cover will remain.
Top security officials said it had been decided to provide the Gandhi family with CRPF commandos along with pilot and escort vehicles. If required, sources added, their convoys would also be provided with jammer vehicles depending on the threat perception and security review, which is done on a regular basis. Apart from providing close proximity security to the Gandhis, the CRPF commandos will also be deployed at their residence.
The SPG, a highly specialised security unit, was raised through an Act of Parliament after the assassination of former PM Indira Gandhi in 1984. Initially, the SPG was meant only for the PM and his family but the SPG Act was later amended in 1991 following Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination to cover former PMs and their families as well.
Security sources claimed Sonia Gandhi along with Rahul and Priyanka did not use bullet-resistant vehicles on several occasions in the last many years, and did not even take SPG commandos on several foreign trips. Rahul, the sources added, had between 2005 and 2014 travelled in non-BR vehicles on 18 visits to different parts of the country, while from 2015 till May 2019 he had travelled in a non-BR vehicle in Delhi.
Even Priyanka in last five years did not use SPG bullet-resistant vehicles on 339 occasions in Delhi and 64 occasions at other places in the country....