In a breaking development, sources have confirmed that the Gandhi family, including Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, are to lose their Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover, with it only now being applicable to the sitting Prime Minister and President. While the Congress has gone on to politicise the change, calling it an act of political vendetta, the BJP has contended that even former PMs Manmohan Singh and Deve Gowda have the same Z+ security that the Gandhis will now be given. Amid this, Republic TV has also accessed details of blatant violations of SPG protocol by members of the Gandhi family.
While Rahul Gandhi has routinely given the SPG the slip, and Priyanka Vadra has gone on record to say that she doesn't require the cover, current Congress president Sonia Gandhi is also not far behind, having flouted the protocol on 50 different occasions over a 4-year period.
Top sources have told Republic TV that Sonia Gandhi did not use SPG BR (bullet-resistant) vehicle on 50 occasions while travelling in New Delhi from 2015 to May 2019. The sources further stated that on 49 occasions, Rahul Gandhi drove her in a non-BR car. The interim Congress President also undertook 13 unscheduled visits to various places in the country in the last 5 years [till May 2019] during which she used non-Bullet Resistant cars. She also did not take SPG officers on 24 of her foreign visits since 2015.
While the Gandhis will continue to get top security - 'Z+' category provided by the CRPF - the Congress has already attempted to politicise the development and attack the government over the move. Senior Indian National Congress leader and Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Ahmed Patel has lashed out at the PM Narendra Modi led government and terming it as "ultimate personal vendetta".
The SPG was set up in 1985 specifically for the security of Prime Ministers after the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her security guards a year before. After the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991, the SPG Act was amended to provide security to former PMs and their families for 10 years. In 2003, the Vajpayee government amended the law again to bring down the automatic protection for 10 years to one year - or more depending on the level of threat as decided by the Centre. Earlier, the daughter of Manmohan Singh, as well as Atal Bihari Vajpayee's foster daughter, had given up the SPG cover provided to them. While former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had SPG cover till he passed away in 2018, former Prime Ministers HD Deve Gowda's and VP Singh's security was revoked. Former PM Manmohan Singh's SPG cover was also revoked in August. He now has Z+ cover, which the Gandhi family will also get.