The government of India has decided to withdraw Special Protection Group (SPG) cover security level that was accorded to the Gandhi family – UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. According to reports, the development comes over ‘lower threat perception,’ and the decision was taken after a security level review and feedback from relevant agencies.
Only Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have SPG cover security from now on. SPG cover is highest level of security cover that can be given in India. The security detail and the strength of the cover will be classified and will be known only to the Prime Minister.
The Gandhi family will have Z plus CRPF security cover from now on, which consists of 55 personnel, including 10 NSG (National Security Guard) commandos and police.
This development comes a month after the union government issued new guidelines to the SPG, saying that they would accompany the Gandhis at all times. It was also speculated that it was a way to keep the family 'under surveillance'. According to new guidelines issued by the Cabinet Secretariat to the SPG in October, this would have meant that the Gandhis would have had to submit every detail about their travel plans so that the security personnel could accompany them.
Before the new guidelines were issued, the Gandhi family would travel abroad with the SPG cover to the first destination. The personnel would then be sent back home, and the Gandhis would prefer to have their own privacy.
The SPG cover was constituted in 1985 after the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own guards. The cover would protect the Prime Minister. The SPG became an official formation in 1988 under the SPG Act.
The Gandhi family had continued to be under SPG cover since to the threat perception towards them being high, and because both Indira and Rajiv Gandhi had died due to assassinations. Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination in 1991 had taken place two years after the VP Singh government withdrew SPG cover for him.
Earlier in August, Manmohan Singh’s SPG cover was withdrawn, while the Z plus security cover remained.
It had also been reported earlier that the Z plus security cover would be given to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and veteran BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi.