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SPG cover withdrawn from Gandhi family

 NEW DELHI, Nov 8 - The Special Protection Group (SPG) security cover given to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul and daughter Priyanka was withdrawn on Friday, 28 years after the elite force’s continuous deployment, and it was replaced by the ‘Z-plus’ security of the CRPF, officials said.

The government’s decision was taken after a detailed security assessment, a senior home ministry official said.

The 3,000-strong SPG, which acts as a ‘shadow’ to its protectees to ensure ‘zero-error security’, will now be guarding only Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The home ministry official said security cover for all VIPs is reviewed periodically and recommendations are made based on threat perceptions by various security agencies in the country.

“The Gandhi family continues to have ‘Z-plus’ security cover,” the official said.

Giving out the reasons for the decision, another official said the threat perception has reduced and the Gandhi family no longer faces serious security threats.

The decision to remove the SPG from the residences of Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka saw angry reactions from Congress leaders with Gandhi’s close aide Ahmed Patel describing the move as “descended to the ultimate personal vendetta mechanism” by the BJP government.

Congress senior spokesperson Anand Sharma said the decision to remove the SPG cover is “shocking and vindictive” and “makes the family vulnerable”.

The Gandhis will be without SPG protection for the first time in 28 years. They were included in the VVIP security list following an amendment in September 1991 in the SPG Act of 1988 under which immediate family members of former Prime Ministers were incorporated by the then PV Narasimha Rao government.

The Act was amended more than a year after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi to include the immediate family members of the former Prime Ministers.

Under the ‘Z-plus’ security by the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), they will have commandos from the paramilitary force in close proximity, besides guards at their homes and wherever they travel in the country, the official said.

The SPG protectees, under the rules, are provided with guards, hi-tech vehicles, jammers and an ambulance in their carcade.

In August this year, the government withdrew the SPG cover of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. – PTI

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