New Delhi: The Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover given to the Gandhi family – United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and her children, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra – may be withdrawn soon, government sources told CNN-News18 on Friday.
The family will now get ‘Z+’ security by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on an all-India basis, they said.
The decision, the sources said, was taken after multiple security agencies carried out a threat perception assessment and found there was no direct threat to them. “Recently, a decision was taken after assessing threat inputs from all agencies,” senior officials aware of the developments said.
The SPG cover is the highest tier of security in the country. Officials assured that the security of the Gandhi family will not be compromised.
The SPG, a force of roughly 3,000 active personnel, was formed in 1985 following the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own bodyguards in 1984. The force currently protects only four people – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the three members of the Gandhi family.
The government had recently withdrawn the SPG cover of former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
The move to withdraw the security layer is likely to take on political overtones, but the sources said that security cover of all protectees is reviewed time to time and downgraded whenever required.
Recently, the SPG cover given to Rahul Gandhi had come under scrutiny after certain “gaps” were found in his security detail. It was reported that on 143 of his 156 trips abroad in the last four years, Rahul Gandhi did not take the SPG with him.
The government had in October then issued fresh guidelines related to the SPG in a move that was seen as an attempt to track the Gandhi family. Under the new directives, it became mandatory for SPG personnel to accompany their charges at all times, including on personal foreign visits.
In August, the government had also removed the SPG cover given to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and downgraded his security to the Z-plus category.
According to procedures laid down by the SPG Act, 1988, Singh was entitled to SPG cover for one year after he demitted office in 2014. His SPG security cover was renewed annually after a review of the threats faced by him and his wife Gursharan Kaur.
At the time when the Act was formed, it did not include former prime ministers. But the rules were amended and allowed for protection of all former PMs and their families for 10 years after former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991 following his SPG cover being withdrawn by successor VP Singh.
The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had later again amended the rules and decided to withdraw the SPG protection given to former prime ministers PV Narasimha Rao, HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral.
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