As the centre downgraded the security cover provided to Gandhi Parivar from SPG cover to Z-plus category after the intelligence agencies presented a detailed threat perception, more details are emerging behind the centre’s decision.
Reportedly, the non-cooperation of the Gandhi family with the SPG over the years and preventing the smooth functioning of SPG was also one of the reasons for the government to downgrade their security from SPG to a Z-plus category.
According to an Economic Times report, a top government said that the members of Gandhi Parivar, Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi and two Gandhi scions, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra did not use SPG’s bullet-proof vehicles on numerous occasions and also did not accompany SPG personnel abroad during their foreign visits on a majority of their trips abroad.
Shockingly, on several occasions, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had even accused SPG officers of collecting her personal and confidential information and sharing with unauthorised persons. She had also threatened the top officials of SPG of dragging them into legal action.
“SPG has from time to time countered such allegations by clarifying that it confines its work to strictly the official charter,” government sources said to Economic Times.
The information provided by the government sources reveals that during 2005-2014, Rahul Gandhi travelled in non-BR (bullet-resistant) vehicles on 18 visits to different parts of the country. There have been 1892 incidents till May 2019, when Rahul Gandhi travelled in a non-BR vehicle in Delhi, which amounts to almost one incident every day. Rahul Gandhi travelled 247 times in a non-BR car when he travelled outside Delhi.
The government source revealed that Rahul Gandhi even travelled on the roof of the vehicle on a few occasions during internal tours violating the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Act and security advice. “During his visit at Banaskantha in Gujarat on August 4, 2017, while he was travelling in a non-BR car again the security advice of SPG there was an incident of stone-pelting on his non-BR private car. The injury could have been avoided had the SPG BR-car was used,” a government source added.
Further, of the total 156 foreign trips that Rahul Gandhi has made since 1991, he did not take SPG officers along on 143 visits. The government source said that Rahul Gandhi in most of these 143 foreign visits, shared his travel itinerary at the last possible hours preventing the SPG officers from accompanying him on the tours. Rahul Gandhi also dragged the name of SPG on a few occasions in the last 5 years in his public speeches, which is undesirable, the government sources added.
Similar to her son, Sonia Gandhi too did not use an SPG bullet-resistant vehicle on 50 occasions while travelling in New Delhi from 2015 to May 2019. Sonia Gandhi has made 13 unscheduled visits to various places in the country in the last 5 years during which she used non-BR cars. She also did not take SPG officers on 24 of her foreign visits since 2015, states the report.
In Priyanka Gandhi’s case, since 2015 to May this year, she did not use SPG bullet-resistant vehicles for her travel on 339 occasions within Delhi and on 64 occasions at other places in the country.
“She used non-BR vehicles against the advice of SPG officers on these visits. Of the total of 99 foreign visits that she has undertaken since 1991, she took SPG security cover only on 21 occasions and refused to take the security for other 78 visits. On most such tours, she shared her travel plan at the eleventh hours rendering it impossible for SPG to depute officers for her security,” government sources said.
Recently, in a bid to strengthen the security cover provided to the Gandhis and to keep track of their movements, the Special Protection Group (SPG), which provides protection to them, was also tasked with a fresh mandate by the Centre. It was reported earlier that the Gandhis may lose their SPG cover after the evaluation.
The Gandhi family has been notified that they should allow SPG personnel to accompany them all the time when they travel abroad. In case, if they are not willing to accept the mandatory SPG protection, they were also informed that there could be curtailment on their foreign visits on account of security considerations.
The Gandhis, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi would earlier travel with the SPG till their first location abroad and then send the SPG personnel back to the country, preferring their own privacy. The Gandhis would then travel to destinations of their choice, thereby making themselves susceptive to risks.