NEW DELHI: The Congress on Friday alleged that the government was endangering the lives of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra by withdrawing their SPG cover and the decision showed the BJP leadership was “blinded by personal hatred and political vendetta”.
Lashing out, the opposition party 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.
The SPG cover for Rahul Gandhi was withdrawn and the CRPF took over the security at his residence 12, Tughlaq Lane. Top CRPF officials had also reached Sonia Gandhi’s residence at 10, Janpath, and were working out modalities for replacing SPG.
“A big thank you to all my brothers and sisters in the SPG who worked tirelessly to protect me and my family over the years. Thank you for your dedication, your constant support and for a journey filled with affection and learning. It has been a privilege. All the best for a great future,” Rahul Gandhi said on Twitter
However, the decision left the Congress fuming and it accused the Modi government of mental bankruptcy.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah are blinded by personal revenge and political vendetta. This is proven by unceremonious removal of SPG cover of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi,” said AICC general secretary KC Venugopal.
“Modi and Amit Shah murdered democratic tradition by withdrawing SPG cover,” he said, adding that after former Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were murdered, it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who amended law to give SPG security to their families.
Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot said, “They have resorted to very low level politics. SPG cover was given under the Act of Parliament. It is for protecting the lives, what other gain is there from it? The kind of politics they are doing shows their mental bankruptcy”.
Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that Prime Minister Modi is blinded by personal hatred and political vendetta and that is the reason for the withdrawal of the SPG cover.
“It seems Prime Minister Modi wants to remain in a club of one in his classical arrogant style without caring for the threat perception and the security issues relating to the SPG protectees – Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
“In his personal rage and hatred, PM Modi has also forgotten that two former prime ministers and members of the family — Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated by terrorists in service to India,” he said.
Surjewala said the SPG does not come under the purview of the Home Ministry and falls under the Cabinet Secretariat as per the Act.
He pointed out that the SPG had written about threat perception to Gandhis through letters dated August 6, 2018, November 6, 2018, June 6, 2019 and August 29, 2019, where threats to them from Khalistani groups, ultras and naxalite groups were brought to light.
He said threat perception is the only criterion and wondered how without bringing an amendment in the SPG Act in Parliament, Modi and Shah changed the law.
Surjewala said former prime minister Manmohan Singh had written on November 5 to Cabinet Secretary over rumours of withdrawal of SGP cover for the Gandhis.
“We will consult appropriate quarters and whatever needs to be done in order to ensure that the rule of law is not annihilated by the blind and personal rage of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah would be done and necessary steps taken,” he said when asked about the next step being taken by the party.
Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the decision to remove the SPG cover for Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi is “shocking and vindictive”.
“It makes the family vulnerable. Not to forget that two members of the family former prime ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were assassinated. The state has a duty to protect and the SPG cover was not a favour,” he said.
Sharma said the UPA government never withdrew Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s security cover. “It continued under Modi Government until his death”.
“It is apparent that during periodic threat assessment over the last five years and even prior to that successive governments have viewed the threat level of the aforementioned three protectees as sufficiently high to continue to extend SPG cover,” Venugopal said.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said, “The BJP has descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism, compromising the lives of family members of two former Prime Ministers to acts of terror and violence.”
Venugopal said the tragic history of this family from security perspective is well known to all. “It does not require repetition that two members of this family- one serving PM and other former PM, lost their lives due to compromised security”.
“Government security forces have said several times that there are threats to them. Modi and Shah have undone it now. Ex-PM V P Singh made the same mistake for Rajiv Gandhi and the country paid a price for it in assassination of Rajiv ji. Blinded by personal revenge and political vendetta, Modi and Shah are doing the same,” he said.
Ashok Gehlot said the decision to withdraw SPG protection to Gandhi family is condemnable.
“The government is compromising the lives of a family, which has lost two members to acts of terror. It’s vendetta politics and of a very low level. They were accorded SPG cover based on threat assessment and it must continue,” he said.
“The SPG cover has been given to the PM, former PMs and their family members under an Act of Parliament and it should not be withdrawn,” he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said it is “politically motivated” and highly condemnable. “Keeping in view the current prevailing security scenario, the security cover is a necessity, not a political favour. The decision should be revoked,” he said.
The family members of Gandhi family would be provided with Z-plus security cover by the CRPF personnel, officials said.