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'Matter Closed, Congress Can Keep Questioning': Govt Sources on Withdrawal of Gandhis’ SPG Cover

The elite SPG security cover given to Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was withdrawn 28 years after the elite force's continuous deployment, and it was replaced by the 'Z-plus' security of the CRPF.

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18_pallavighosh

Updated:November 20, 2019, 7:09 PM IST
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'Matter Closed, Congress Can Keep Questioning': Govt Sources on Withdrawal of Gandhis’ SPG Cover
Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Robert Vadra arrive to pay tribute to the late Rajiv Gandhi on his birth anniversary at Veer Bhumi, in New Delhi on August 20, 2018. (PTI)

New Delhi: When Congress chief Sonia Gandhi came to the Parliament on Day 1 of the Winter Session, there were many firsts. Gandhi alighted at Gate 1, like any other MP. Until now, under the Special Protection Group (SPG), Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would enter Parliament away from the public glare — the SPG would escort them till their rooms.

All this has now gone. Sonia Gandhi was accompanied by a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel sitting in front of her after the SPG cover was withdrawn.

The elite SPG security cover given to Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was withdrawn 28 years after the elite force's continuous deployment, and it was replaced by the 'Z-plus' security of the CRPF.

The decision to withdraw SPG cover given to the family of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated by LTTE terrorists on May 21, 1991, was taken after a detailed security assessment, a senior home ministry official said.

Under the Z-plus security cover Sonia Gandhi, her family and Singh are now entitled to, they will get 100 CRPF personnel as security. But what is, perhaps, a bigger scale-down is her car. Gone is the bullet-proof Range Rovers they would drive in — it has now been replaced by a 10-year-old Tata Safari, which is not bullet-proof. The CRPF has officially requested the SPG to provide them with bullet-proof vehicles, but there has been no response yet.

The SPG has more than a hundred bullet-proof vehicles at its disposal and ordering them especially for the CRPF will take time. Among the worries is when the Gandhis campaign in danger zones such as Jharkhand, bullet-proof and landmine-proof vehicles are a necessity.

While the Congress has made the SPF cover withdrawal a huge issue in Parliament, with Youth Congress workers taking to the streets, top government sources have said there is no question of a rollback.

Top home ministry sources said there was no question of any reply on the issue by the government. “The matter is closed... Congress can keep asking questions,” the sources said.

The Congress has alleged that by withdrawing their SPG cover the government was endangering the lives of Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka, and the decision showed that the BJP leadership was "blinded by personal hatred and political vendetta".

Lashing out, the opposition reminded the Modi government that a similar mistake was committed in case of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated, and that it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who amended the law to give SPG security to Gandhi family members.

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, Congress leader Anand Sharma said politics must be separated from the security of leaders. Union minister JP Nadda responded to the charges, denying that the move was political.

“There is nothing political, security hasn't been withdrawn. Home Ministry has a very set pattern and there is a protocol. It is not done by a politician, it is done by Home Ministry and according to threat perception the security is given and withdrawn,” he said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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