Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s husband Robert Vadra on Tuesday said the government should not have removed her Special Protection Group security cover. He confirmed there was a “serious lapse” in security at their home last month, as reported by news outlets on Monday.
Criticising the government, the businessman said “security throughout the country is compromised”, NDTV reported.
According to a PTI report, seven unknown people drove a car up to the porch of the Vadras’ Lodhi Estate home on November 26, walked up to the Congress leader and asked for photographs. Priyanka Gandhi spoke to them, took pictures with them and then left, the report said. The Congress leader’s office has complained to the Central Reserve Police Force about the security breach.
Vadra told ANI that providing security was not a fad. “It is given on threat perception,” he said. The new security personnel “lack the kind of training that SPG had,” he said, adding that a “blame game” started when the security officers were questioned about the breach.
Meanwhile, Vadra also wrote on Facebook: “It is not about the security for Priyanka, my daughter and son or me or the Gandhi family. It is about keeping our citizens especially the women of our country, safe and secure. If we are not safe in our own country, our homes, not safe on roads, not safe in the day or at night, where and when are we safe?”
Referring to the reports of rapes and murders of women, the businessman said: “Girls are being molested/raped, what society are we creating?”
Vadra said he wants women to be safe. “I become afraid when my daughter goes to school,” he told ANI. “The current atmosphere in the country is dangerous. People should get instant justice and should fear the law.”
Inquiry ordered, says Amit Shah
Later in the day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah told the Rajya Sabha that the security breach at Vadra’s home was a “coincidence” as her brother Rahul Gandhi was also about to arrive around the same time, ANI reported. “The car and timing were same, such was the coincidence,” he said during a discussion on the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill. “That’s why the car with Sharda Tyagi [a Congress leader who was in the group] went in without security check.”
Shah said a high-level inquiry has been ordered and three officers responsible for the security breach have been suspended.
The Special Protection Group was set up in 1985, a year after the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1991, after the assassination of Indira Gandhi’s son Rajiv Gandhi, the SPG Act was amended to allow the force to protect former prime ministers and their immediate family for 10 years from the date they demit office. According to the amendment, the government could decide on continuing the security cover till it thinks the threat perception is requires such security cover.
The new amendment bill, which was passed by the Lok Sabha last week, was passed by the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The bill aims to extend SPG cover to the prime minister and his or her immediate family members who live at the official residence, and also for five years after he or she leaves office.
Days before the security breach, Priyanka Gandhi had said the government’s move was “part of politics”. The SPG cover of her brother Rahul Gandhi, and mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi were also removed. They were instead granted Z-plus category protection across India. This entitles them to protection by the Central Reserve Police Force.
In Parliament, the Congress has protested against the government’s move. Even the Shiv Sena has expressed concerns about the Centre’s action, asking the government why it felt 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 political differences should be kept aside in such matters.
During the discussion in Lok Sabha last month, Union Home Minister Amit Shah defended the government’s decision. Shah accused the Congress of treating SPG cover like a “status symbol”, pointing out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not spend money on hotels during technical halts while travelling abroad, and takes bath and rest at airport terminals.
Shah said his government would restore the original intent of the SPG cover, which was to provide security for the prime minister. Refuting any charges of the move being a “political vendetta”, he said: “The BJP does not carry out any action with a vindictive approach. It was the Congress which took many such decisions in the past. The term ‘special’ indicates its [SPG’s] special purpose. Many countries have such elite cover exclusively for their respective heads of state.”