The government took the decision after a security assessment, says a senior official.ty measure,spoli
The Union government has decided to withdraw the Special Protection Group (SPG) cover for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children — Member of Parliament Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra — and replace it with ‘Z plus’ security cover of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
The SPG, an elite force comprising 3,000 personnel, will now provide security only to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A senior government official said in a security review it was found that the Gandhi family did not cooperate and impede smooth functioning the SPG.From 2015 onwards, Mr. Gandhi, currently MP from Wayanad, Kerala, did not use the SPG approved bulletproof vehicles on 1,892 occasions while travelling in Delhi and that accounted for a violation a day, the official said.
“From 2005-2014, he travelled in non-bullet resistant vehicles during 18 visits to different parts of the country and 247 occasions where he violated the rules to travel outside Delhi,” the official said.
The official said that Mr. Gandhi “travelled on the roof of vehicle on a few occasions during internal tours in violation of the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and security advices.”
“During his visit at Banaskantha [Gujarat] on August 4, 2017, while he was travelling in a non-bullet resistant car against the security advice of the SPG, there was an incident of pelting of stones in which his personal security officer was injured. The injury could have been avoided,” the official said.
The matter was raised by the Congress party in Parliament and the then Home Minister informed the Lok Sabha that Mr. Gandhi did not avail SPG vehicles on 100 out of 121 visits between April 2015 to June 2017, the official stated.
“Out of a total of 156 foreign visits that he undertook since 1991, he did not take SPG officers on 143 visits. In most of the 143 foreign visits, he shared the travel itinerary at 11th hour preventing the SPG officers from accompanying him on the tours,” the official said.
Mr. Gandhi also dragged the name of the SPG on a few occasions in the last five years in his public speeches, which was undesirable, the official asserted.
Ms. Sonia Gandhi too did not use SPG vehicles on 50 occasions while moving around in Delhi from 2015-2019.
“On all but one of these occasions, she drove her non-bullet resistant car. She also undertook 13 unscheduled visits to various places in the country in the last five years, during which she did not use SPG cars. She also did not take SPG officers on 24 foreign visits since 2015,” the official noted.
The official accused Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra of not using SPG approved vehicles on 339 occasions in Delhi and 64 times outside Delhi.
“Out of total 99 foreign visits that she has undertaken since 1991, she took SPG security cover only 21 times and refused to take the security for the other 78 visits. On most such tours, she shared her travel plan at the 11th hour, rendering it impossible for the SPG to depute officers for her security,” the official said.
Since May 2014, she had levelled allegations against SPG officers that they were collecting her personal and confidential information and sharing with unauthorised persons. “She even threatened the top officials of the SPG to drag them into legal action. The SPG has, from time to time, countered such allegations by clarifying that it confines its work to strictly the official charter,” the official said.
The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Former Prime Minister A.B Vajpayee continued to have SPG cover from 2004 when he demitted office till his death in 2018.
During his tenure that began in 1999, Prime Minister Vajpayee’s government conducted a major review of the SPG’s operations, and decided to withdraw SPG protection to former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao, H.D. Deve Gowda, and I.K. Gujral.
Last month, the Centre replaced SPG cover for former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the CRPF.