Though the Gandhi family and the Congress seems to be upset about the passing of the Special Protection Group (Amendment) BIll they do forget that if someone would be affected by this amendment, it would be Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his cover will be withdrawn after five years of him ceasing to be the PM.
An extremely important Bill was passed by the Parliament, which is aimed at reducing a big burden on the exchequer. The Special Protection Group (Amendment) BIll cleared the Rajya Sabha hurdle and as expected the Congress staged a walk out.
The Congress even cited a security breach at the home of its leader, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, but remained mum on why it brought up the incident six days after it had taken place. The Congress has been alleging political vendetta behind the move to withdraw SPG security to the Gandhis.
It is 130 crore Indians not the Gandhi family:
Sonia Gandhi entered Parliament for the first time in 1999. Since then she has been entering the Parliament through the gate on the rear end of the building owing to SPG security. However, this time, she decided to make an issue about the SPG cover and walked into Parliament through Gate Number 1, which is used by the MPs, Union ministers and also media persons.
While the Congress leaders were visibly upset to see their leader walk in through the main gate, what one must remember is that this was just an attempt at making a statement. Sonia Gandhi and her two children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka still have Z Plus cover. A person protected under the Z Plus cover can still use the rear end of the building to enter Parliament.
The Congress has clearly made this a prestige issue, without realising that security is not about the Gandhi family alone, but about 130 crore Indians as Union home minister Amit Shah had pointed out.
There are several other points that the Congress decided to conceal, while raising objections to the passage of the Bill. Dr Manmohan Singh, a staunch Congressman was prime minister for 10 years and there was no such hue and cry when his SPG cover was withdrawn. There was no protest when the cover was withdrawn for PV Narasimha Rao, also a Congressman. Further the Congress did not rake up the issue when the SPG cover was also removed for former prime ministers, Chandra Shekhar, HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral.
Shah rightly said that if someone would be affected by this amendment, it would be Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his cover will be withdrawn after five years of him ceasing to be the PM.
It was clear in Parliament that only the Congress was deeply affected by this decision of the government. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary spoke about the sacrifices made by the Gandhi-Nehru family, but he failed to get any traction as even the allies of the Congress stayed mum in Parliament.
Are Gandhis worried about the financial burden?
The withdrawal of SPG cover for the Gandhis did not mean the withdrawal of security. They enjoy the Z Plus security, which is extremely effective. The security has only been altered. In fact, the security detail for the Gandhis is in line with the President of India and top Union ministers.
The Gandhis now have top class Z Plus security that involves an ambulance. They are also guarded by personnel who were part of the SPG previously. One of the key amendments that was introduced was with regard to the cut-off period. It could go on and on and this amendment has now fixed a cut off period. Further the decision on SPG cover would also be taken after the threat assessment is done.
The Congress which has been protesting also chose to ignore several other crucial issues. Between 2004 and 2012, the UPA spent Rs 1,800 crore on protecting members of the Gandhi family, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In the year 2004-05 only Rs 94 crore had been spent on SPG cover. However, in the next decade, the amount spent on SPG by the UPA skyrocketed. In the year 2011, the amount spent on guarding the five persons went up to Rs 386 crore. In the year 2012, the UPA budgeted an expenditure of Rs 351 crore for SPG.
In addition to this providing security cover to a large number of persons, whose threat perception has been downgraded also puts a lot of pressure on the resources, training, infrastructure of the SPG. This in turn heavily impacts the original protectee, the Prime Minister who is in office.
They felt like the PM:
Neeraj Shankar, the son of former prime minister, Chandra Shekhar made an interesting point. Being the son of a former PM, he too was an SPG proctectee. He said that those under SPG cover think like that they are the prime minister.
He also said that those people who live under SPG cover think they are the prime minister of the country and are privileged persons. They travel in a cavalcade of bullet proof cars, which are escorted by police. They bypass all security checks, barriers and even mandatory frisking at airports.
While cautioning the House that young people did not like VIP culture, he said when he got the cover in 1991 following the amendment, he liked it as he was 22 years old then. He also said that although he was nothing, people still would come and take his autograph and the protection gave me the feeling that I am an important person. He also wondered about the amount being spent on such security and added that 15 vehicles would travel with him, making him feel like a PM.
Shah clearly said that security cannot be a status symbol. Over the years the Gandhis have got used to the VIP culture and it now appears as though they are upset the withdrawal of the SPG cover does not make them feel like a PM anymore. After all they have been under this cover for the past 28 years.
What is even more ironic is that the Congress has made this entire Winter Session about the SPG cover for the Gandhis. The question is, are there not other pressing issues that would require a debate?
The timing of the breach:
On Tuesday, the Congress pointed out that there was a security breach at the residence of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. A breach is a breach and would need to be probed. Shah said that owing to strange coincidence, a breach had taken place. He said that Priyanka’s security personnel were apparently informed that Rahul would be visiting her in a black safari, but instead of him some Congress workers from Meerut came in a similar vehicle and were allowed inside.
Shah however made it clear that three personnel were suspended pending a high-level inquiry. However, media reports later said that these persons belonged to one family and the group posed no threat. They were fans of the Congress leader and one of them had even spoken to Priyanka’s PA. One of them even spoke to her, but she had to leave.
As pointed earlier, a probe is required, but one also has to take into account the timing. First and foremost, the Congress raised this issue six days after the incident. It was raised in the Parliament when the government was tabling the amendment bill.
The BJP’s national IT cell chief, Amit Malviya said that the Congress has lied again, this time on Priyanka Vadra’s security breach, just so that they could target the government for changing Gandhi’s security cover to Z Plus, which is in line with the cover provided to top ministers in the Government of India- Shame.
Last Updated Dec 4, 2019, 11:07 AM IST