The Shiv Sena on Saturday raised concerns about the withdrawal of the Gandhi family’s Special Protection Group cover, asking why the Centre felt that the threat perception had reduced.
In an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamana, the party said one should not play with people’s lives and that political differences should be kept aside in such matters. It also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to look into the matter.
On November 8, the Centre withdrew the Special Protection Group security cover of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. They were instead granted Z-plus category protection across India. This entitles them to protection by the Central Reserve Police Force.
“Be it Delhi or Maharashtra, the atmosphere should be fear-free,” the Shiv Sena said. “It is the responsibility of the rulers to create such an atmosphere that those in public life can work fearlessly. There is no objection to withdrawing the security cover when such atmosphere prevails.”
On multiple occasions this week, the Congress leaders raised the concern in Parliament and held protests.
The Shiv Sena also pointed out that the prime minister, the home minister and other ruling party leaders were still enjoying their protection covers. “The importance of bulletproof vehicles is also not reduced,” it said. “This means there is some basis for the question being raised about the security of the Gandhi family.”
The Sena recalled the assassinations of former prime ministers from the Gandhi family. It said late Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray had talked about the threat to the life of Rajiv Gandhi when the India-Sri Lanka peace accord was signed in 1987. “The government may feel everything is fine now, but bomb explosions were carried out at a Colombo hotel some months ago,” the editorial pointed out.
The Special Protection Group was set up in 1985 following the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi the year before. Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi was also assassinated in 1991, two years after he left the prime minister’s post. After this, the SPG Act was amended to allow the force to protect former prime ministers for 10 years.
The Hindutva party said its concerns about the Gandhi family’s security cover have nothing to do with it joining hands with the Congress in Maharashtra to form a government. It said it would have expressed the same view even if there was somebody else in place of the Gandhis.