The Special Protection Group (SPG) cover given to Congress Interim President Sonia Gandhi, former Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, was withdrawn by the Government on Friday.
The Home Ministry informed that following a review of threat perception, it was recommended that Z+ Security provided by CRPF was deemed to be sufficient for the Gandhi family.
Congress spokesmen pointed out that media reports had suggested a month ago that such a move was in the offing. Once it was confirmed that such a move was indeed being made, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh wrote a letter to the Cabinet Secretary, voicing the apprehensions and misgivings of the party. But no acknowledgment or a reply was received.
Meanwhile, Congress leader tweeted his thanks to the SPG in a twitter message:
Congress President Sonia Gandhi wrote a thanks letter to the SPG
Briefing the media, AICC General Secretary K.C. Venugopal and Congress party spokesperson Randeep Surjewala pointed out that the Modi Government had been consistently leaking details about the Gandhis’ movements to the media, thus causing serious concern about their breach of security.
The National Front Government, they pointed out, had withdrawn SPG cover from former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, with tragic consequences. Following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, J.S. Verma Commission had gone into the issue and concluded that the former PM’s security was compromised.
Congress leaders claimed that the Government was being mean and vengeful and playing politics with the lives of the Gandhis.
A MHA official meanwhile informed that SPG security will be withdrawn from the New Delhi residences of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra once the CRPF takes over the responsibility, a Home Ministry official said.
The decision is set to become a huge political flashpoint, with Congress leaders complaining of a political conspiracy and vendetta. The Gandhi family has been enjoying SPG cover since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on May 21, 1991.
The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. Parliament passed the SPG Act in 1988, dedicating the group to protecting the Prime Minister.
When V.P. Singh came to power in 1989, his government withdrew SPG protection given to his predecessor Rajiv Gandhi.
In 2003, the Vajpayee government again amended the SPG Act to bring the period of automatic protection down from 10 years to "a period of one year from the date on which the former prime minister ceased to hold office" and beyond one year based on the level of threat as decided by the government.
In August, the Centre had also withdrawn SPG protection given to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his wife Gursharan Kaur and they were accorded 'Z plus' security of CRPF.