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Why doesn't Rahul take SPG on foreign visits, asks Rajnath

Why doesnt Rahul take SPG on foreign visits, asks Rajnath

New Delhi: In a stinging attack on Rahul Gandhi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday accused him of breaching security protocol inside and outside the country and wondered if he doesn't take the elite SPG on foreign trips to "hide" something.

The minister was speaking in the Lok Sabha on the issue of security for the Congress Vice President following a stone throwing incident during a visit to rain-hit Banaskantha district in Gujarat. Major sparring between the ruling and opposition benches forced Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to adjourn the House for the day.

Taking the floor after Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge accused the BJP of following the politics of violence, Singh said Gandhi was out for 72 days on six foreign tours and he did not take the Special Protection Group cover.

"We want to know why didn't Rahul Gandhi take SPG cover on several foreign trips? What is he trying to hide? In the last two years, Gandhi has been out on six foreign visits for 72 days. He has not kept the SPG cover in these 72 days," Singh said amidst shouting by Congress MPs.

"The country would want to know where he went - that he did not want to take SPG cover," said Singh.

He said going abroad without taking SPG cover was not only a violation of the SPG Act but also negligence towards one's own security.

The minister said the Congress leader informs the SPG only a few hours before leaving the country and hence they cannot accompany him.

SPG protectees get security cover under an Act of Parliament, the minister said, adding Gandhi undertook 121 tours in the last two years, out of which there were 100 security protocol violations of not using bullet-resistance car.

In his earlier visit to Gujarat on July 21, Gandhi preferred to use a non-bullet resistance car against the advice given by SPG, Singh said.

While condemning the stone attack, he said Gandhi did not follow security protocols during his tour to Gujarat when his car was attacked.

Singh said after landing in Banaskantha, Gandhi was walking up to the bullet-proof car but was advised by his secretary to take another car.

"Two Bullet Resistance cars were provided for Rahul Gandhi at Dhanera but he sat in a non-BR car. He did not listen to the police, he took his private secretary's advise."

Congress members raised the pitch in protest but the Minister continued.

Singh said black flags were shown to Gandhi at his rally. While he was supposed to be there for 15-20 minutes, he left in 7.5 minutes and headed for the helipad, and was attacked on the way.

"Someone from the crowd threw a stone. He was not hurt, but a security personnel was injured. A probe is on, one person has been detained and is in judicial custody," Singh said.

Singh added that for the next lap of his tour in Gujarat as well, Gandhi chose a normal car and not a bullet-proof one, adding he has done that on several occasions, "almost 100 times in last two years".

"This has been brought to the notice of the office of the Congress President (Sonia Gandhi), his office and the Congress party," Singh said.

Singh said the Congress needed to introspect why Gandhi was attacked while Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who also visited the area, did not face any protest.

Earlier, Kharge accused the BJP of following the ideology of violence and blamed BJP workers for the "potentially fatal" attack.

"The government says in Kashmir stone pelting is done by terrorists. What type of terrorists attacked Rahul Gandhi's car? Were they from Kashmir? Have BJP workers in Gujarat turned into terrorists?" Kharge asked, leading to an uproar from the treasury benches, which was countered by Congress members.

"He is a martyr's son... We are not going to be afraid of anyone," Kharge said. "Our fight is non-violent. You talk about violence. We follow Gandhi, you follow (Nathuram) Godse... Your message is hatred, stone pelting and violence."

After the Home Minister spoke, Congress members trooped near the Speaker's podium shouting slogans. The Speaker adjourned the house till noon.

At noon, Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay said the house should condemn the attack on Gandhi but added that he should keep his SPG protection.

As other members made their Zero Hour mentions, Congress members again trooped to the Speaker's podium noisily. Amid the ruckus, the House was adjourned for the day.

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