The central government has delisted three members of the Gandhi family, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, son Rahul and daughter Priyanka from the country's highest security cover of Special Protection Group (SPG). The three will henceforth be entitled to only .the protection of Central Reserve Police Force's (CRPF) 'Z-Plus' security. The Centre's explanation is that their revised protection level has been decided after a careful review of their security requirement by the home ministry and that SPG security is regularly reviewed from time to time. However, there are some inner circle reports that complaints against the three leaders, like non-cooperation with the functioning of the top security wing, non-compliance with guidelines of SPG in use of Bullet-Resistant (BR) vehicles, escort during foreign trips and road shows, and even about Rahul and Priyanka blaming SPG, all prompted the downgrading of the security layer. There have been notes carefully leaked to the media mentioning their failure to abide by security guidelines over the last few years, and obstructin of discharge of duty of security personnel. Last August, former prime ministe Manmohan Singh's SPG cover also was removed. Now the sole person left in this top-level SPG cover is prime minister Narendra Modi.
SPG was formed in 1985with a strength of 3,000 following the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi by her guards in 1984. During that time this was provided to VVIP's under terrorist threats. Later, subsequent to the assassination of former prime minister Rajeev Gandhi, the SPG Act was amended, his family was also brought under this cover. Although the Centre now explains that the SPG cover has been removed since there is no such clear threat to them, the decision cannot be viewed as taken on purely technical grounds and without political motives. The Centre had given to SPG a revised set of guidelines only at end of last month. As per this, it was laid down that SPG security should accompany those in that category always including during travel abroad. The Congress has alleged that the law was tightened when Rahul Gandhi declined it during some of his foreign trips, and that was intended to monitor his privacy even while abroad. It is in this backdrop that the Congress alleges that downgrading the protection for the Gandhi family who face diverse challenges, was nothing short of a politically motivated move. The party also charges that their family was brought under SPG protection in the aftermath of attacks and terrorism that took the lives of two former prime ministers. It is when the Centre keeps warning about increasing internal security threats that protection category is being lowered one after another for top leaders of the Congress, which can therefore be seen only as political vendetta.
This charge cannot be dismissed as baseless. Modi government can be seen as having made it a policy to put political adversaries and critics in trouble. It has been in ample public view that ever since Modi government came to power at the Centre, central government agencies like the CBI, Income Tax department and Enforcement Directorate have been used as tools to rein in opponents. The new move to chase and book critics - used in the old Modi-model of Gujarat - is being tried at the Centre also now. Among those who had to pay a price for having stood against Modi, are former member of Election Commission, Ashok Lavasa, former Daman-Diu collector Kannan Gopinathan who resigned two months ago in protest against the lockdown in Kashmir and internationally known journalist and writer Aatish Taseer. In retaliation against the five-times repeated dissent note by Lavasa that election code of conduct is applicable also to Modi and Amit Shah, Modi's instruction was passed to 11 public sector units' vigilance officers to scrutinise all records under their jurisdiction in order put a noose around Election Commissioner Lavasa. And in the case of Kannan who protested at the Centre's interference in Kashmir, one of the items on which show cause notice was served was why he did not apply for prime minister's award! Aatish Taseer, writer and son of celebrated Tavleen Singh, had to pay a price for having written an article about Modi in Time magazine in connection with the last general election titled ' Divider-in-Chief'. The decision is that since his father is Pakistani citizen, the Overseas Citizen of India card issued to him, should not be renewed. It is amidst such close hunt after every adversary and critic of Modi that the SPG cover of Gandhi family is also being withdrawn – exactly the reason for Modi government's bona fides coming under a cloud of suspicion.