New Delhi: In yet another security review, the Ministry of Home Affairs has withdrawn the SPG (Special Protection Group) cover of Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
All three will now get the Z-plus security cover of the CRPF, ThePrint has learnt.
According to a source in the ministry, the decision was taken after a security review revealed that they were not under any “direct threat”.
“After a threat assessment and detailed review, it was found that an SPG cover is not required for them (Gandhis). This is why the cover was downgraded to Z-plus category,” a source in the home ministry said.
This means that the SPG security cover will now be only with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
According to the SPG Act, the PM is the major protectee, while all others fall under the category of minor protectees.
SPG soldiers are trained according to the guidelines of Secret Service of America and are equipped with the FNF-2000 Assault Rifle, Automatic Gun and 17 M revolvers.
A Z-plus protectee gets 55 security officers that comprise of the CRPF, ITBP and 10 NSG commandos along with local police. There are escort vehicles too.
In July, the ministry had reviewed the security cover of over 350 protectees and had downgraded and stripped the cover of many, including former PM Manmohan Singh, freeing over 1,300 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) security personnel who were deployed for the security of prominent politicians and other individuals.
Other politicians whose security was downgraded include Akhilesh Yadav (SP), Lalu Prasad Yadav (RJD), Rajiv Pratap Rudy (BJP), Vikram Majithia (SAD), Udit Raj (Congress), Pratap Singh Bajwa (Congress), Indresh Kumar (RSS) and Sangeet Som (BJP), among others.
CRPF calls it a positive move
Officials from the CRPF said the move is a positive development for the force since it would provide a break of sorts for CRPF jawans and officials from being posted in disturbed areas like the Northeast, Left-wing extremism-affected areas or Jammu and Kashmir.
“CRPF jawans are usually posted in the most disturbed of areas…So this would give a break of sorts to the force,” a CRPF official said.
“Also, the CRPF has its bases across the country unlike the SPG, which would send vehicles, and other security equipment all from Delhi,” the official added. “Since all three of them travel across the country, it would be easy for the CRPF to provide them security like it does for the home minister now.”
It’s political vendetta by BJP, says Congress
Commenting on the home ministry’s decision, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel tweeted saying the BJP had “descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism, compromising the lives of family members of 2 Former Prime Ministers to acts of terror and violence”.
The BJP has descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism, compromising the lives of family members of 2 Former Prime Ministers to acts of terror and violence.
— Ahmed Patel (@ahmedpatel) November 8, 2019
Ex-MP and former president of the Youth Congress, Rajeev Satav, also accused the BJP of putting the lives of the Congress leaders in danger, knowing that two of their leaders — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated.
BJP Govt decision to withdraw the SPG protection of Smt.Sonia Gandhi Ji,Shri Rahul Gandhi Ji & Smt.Priyanka Gandhi Ji is nothing but political vendetta to put their lives in danger even after knowing that two leaders Smt.Indira Gandhi Ji & Shri Rajiv Gandhi Ji were assassinated.
— Rajeev Satav (@SATAVRAJEEV) November 8, 2019
With inputs from Sanya Dhingra