Narendra Modi government withdrawn the Special Protection cover of Rahul Gandhi,Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra,with officials saying there is no “direct threat to the Gandhis”.
This move comes two months after the Centre removed the SPG cover of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, although a home ministry bureaucrat said the decisions on Singh and the Gandhis had been taken together.
The decision was implemented without an official announcement 200 SPG guards who protected each of the Gandhis were silently replaced with around 40 CRPF personnel for each.The SPG,an elite force of 3,000 commandos, is now tasked with protecting only Prime Minister Modi.
The Congress accused the government of “vendetta politics” against the Gandhis,Centre issued no official explanation for its decision. Instead.
“During a review,the home ministry found there was no direct threat to the Gandhis. Their security will not be compromised since they have already been provided Z-plus security,” an official in the home ministry’s media wing said.
Government sources accused the Gandhis of “failing to cooperate with the protocol and impeding the smooth functioning of the SPG”, citing this as another reason for the SPG withdrawal.
But a security official who asked not to be identified said that while, under the SPG Act, “the government can always withdraw security cover based on a review of the threat assessment, the plea that the Gandhis were not cooperating with the SPG is ridiculous”.
Government sources cited the following “security protocol violations” by the Gandhis:
Rahul has refused SPG-approved bullet-proof vehicles Since 2015, 1,892 times while travelling in Delhi. Between 2005 and 2014, he had opted 247 times to travel outside Delhi in non-bullet-resistant vehicles.
Rahul “travelled on the roof of the vehicle a few times, violating the Motor Vehicle Act and security advice”.
“While Rahul was travelling in a non-bullet-resistant car against SPG advice during a Gujarat trip on August 2017,there was about of stone-throwing that injured his personal security officer. The injury could have been avoided,” an official said.
He said the Congress had raised the stone attack in the Lok Sabha, prompting then home minister Rajnath Singh to clarify that Rahul had refused his SPG-approved vehicles during 100 of 121 visits between April 2015 and June 2017.
Rahul had made 143 of his 156 foreign visits since 1991 without any accompanying SPG officer. He had shared his travel plan at the eleventh hour, making it impossible for the SPG to depute officers to accompany him.
Sonia too had eschewed SPG-approved vehicles 50 times while travelling in Delhi since 2015. She had also made 13 unscheduled visits outside Delhi without bullet-proof cars, and 24 foreign visits unaccompanied by SPG officers during this period.
Priyanka had foregone SPG-approved vehicles 339 times in Delhi and 64 times outside the capital. “During her 99 foreign visits since 1991, she accepted SPG cover only 21 times. She too mostly shared her travel plans at the eleventh hour,” a source said.