Congress leaders and chief ministers on Friday hit out at the Central government over its decision to withdraw the Special Protection Group (SPG) cover given to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka.
“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,” senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said. His party colleague Anand Sharma said the decision was “shocking and vindictive”.
The party asked the government to explain the basis of the decision. “It makes the family vulnerable. Don’t forget that two members of the family — Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi — were assassinated. The state has a duty to protect and SPG cover was not a favour. The UPA government never withdrew Atalji’s cover,” Sharma said.
The Congress released a letter that four senior leaders — former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, A K Antony, Ahmed Patel and M Veerappa Moily — had written to the Cabinet Secretary on November 5 asking the government to treat security matters of the three in a non-partisan manner. They had argued that “any change in the status of their security prejudicial to the three protectees… shall be malafide and… shall be an ill-advised act of commission on the part of which, government which would place their lives in danger and under direct threat.”
Addressing a press conference, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the SPG had written to Rahul four times on the threat perception.
“On August 6, 2018, November 6, 2018, June 06, 2019 and August 29, 2019, the same SPG, on a review of the security protectee Rahul Gandhi in tandem with Intelligence Bureau, Research and Analysis Wing, wrote to him saying there is a threat perception to his life from Islamic terrorist group, from Khalistani terror group, from ultras and Naxalite groups active from Chhattisgarh up to Wayanad and that he should be taking such precautions… The question is what has changed in 60 days,” he said.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and his Rajasthan counterpart Ashok Gehlot asked the government to reconsider the “politically motivated” decision, particularly in view of the prevailing security scenario.
“The Central government has showed extreme pettiness and total disregard for the safety of a family that had made huge sacrifices for the country,” Singh said.
“SPG cover was given under Act of Parliament. It is for protecting the lives… The kind of politics they are doing shows their mental bankruptcy. Prime Minister should intervene if the home minister has taken the decision on his own level…” Gehlot said.
At a press conference, Congress general secretary K C Venugopal said it was the A B Vajpayee government that amended the SPG Act to “give the family of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi SPG cover. Modi and Shah have undone it. Former Prime Minister V P Singh made the same mistake for Rajiv Gandhi and the country paid a price for it in the assassination of Rajiv. Blinded by personal revenge and political vendetta, Modi and Shah are doing the same thing.”
He said there is a “threat” to the life of Sonia and Rahul, and “they are playing with the lives of Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka”.