Congress leader Anand Sharma on Wednesday demanded in Rajya Sabha restoration of the SPG cover to the Gandhi family and former prime minister Manmohan Singh by “rising above partisan politics” but senior BJP leaders maintained the decision was taken by the Home Ministry based on threat perception.
The central government earlier this month replaced the Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover given to Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and former prime minister Singh by the ‘Z-plus’ security of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
Raising the issue during the Zero Hour in the House, veteran Congress MP Sharma said there was a clear evaluation of threat perceptions to the four leaders and withdrawal of SPG cover makes them vulnerable.
“It is the responsibility of the state to protect its leaders,” he said, while pointing out that the Congress-led UPA government had not disturbed security cover of former prime ministers, including that of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and also of other protectees.
Their security cover was neither diluted nor withdrawn during the 10-years of UPA rule, he added.
He further said that after withdrawal of the SPG cover to Gandhis and Singh, there are concerns which are well-founded.
“We would urge the government that these issues of personal safety, security and lives of our leaders have to be beyond partisan political considerations. Please rise above that. Review and restore (SPG security cover). That would be in national interest, otherwise intention will be questioned today, tomorrow and in the future,” Sharma said.
Defending the government’s decision to downgrade the security cover, senior BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said the decision has been taken by the Home Ministry, and moreover, the threat perception to the Gandhis has disappeared with the end of the LTTE in Sri Lanka.
“Threat perceptions have always been the judgement of the Home Ministry…It has been always been a special committee in the Home Ministry which decides. If there is any question about it, one can go to court and challenge it,” he said.
He further said the threat originally arose out of the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
“That issue has disappeared because of two reasons,” Swamy said.
“First, there is no LTTE” and second, the “attitude” of protectees towards those who have given death penalty for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi by the Supreme Court, he said.
He said the Gandhis have been asking for reduction of punishment of those involved in the assassination and even Sonia Gandhi had written to the President of India in this regard.
Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said he too was not in favour of reduction in punishment.
BJP working president J P Nadda said no politics should be seen in the move to replace their security cover.
He said the Home Ministry has a “set pattern” and “protocol” in assessing threat perceptions to leaders.