NEW DELHI: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said security of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul and Priyanka has not been withdrawn but changed to 'Z-plus' with ambulance.
Replying to the debate on the SPG (Amendment) Bill, he asserted that the BJP does not carry out any action with a vindictive approach and it was the Congress which took many such decisions in the past.
He said that the security cover has in fact been increased for the Gandhi family.
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"Impression is being created that the SPG Act is amended to withdraw security from the Gandhi family. This is not the fact. Security of the Gandhi family has not been withdrawn but changed to 'Z-plus' with advance security liaison and ambulance that will be given across the country," he said.
The bill was passed amid a walkout by the Congress.
Several opposition members also wanted changes in the bill which were defeated by voice votes.
According to the amendment, the SPG will now protect the prime minister and members of his immediate family residing with him at his official residence.
It will also provide security to former prime ministers and their immediate family members staying with them at the residence allotted for a period of five years from the date on which they cease to hold the office.
In his reply, Shah also said when the SPG security cover was withdrawn from former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar, IK Gujral and Manmohan Singh, but no one uttered a word.
The SPG amendment bill has been brought days after the government decided to withdraw the SPG security of the Gandhi family and replaced it with the 'Z-plus' security cover by the CRPF.
The home minister said security is given to anyone on the basis of threat perception and there is no politics involved in it.
"This government wants to provide security to every political party and is already providing the same. But political leaders can't be given equal security as provided to the prime minister of the country," he said.
Shah said after 2015, Rahul Gandhi has in fact travelled 1,892 times in India and 247 times abroad without informing the SPG.
"Members of the Gandhi family have travelled abroad on many occasions without informing the SPG. Instances like this has happened about 600 times." he said.
He said Sonia Gandhi had travelled 50 times in Delhi, 13 times in various parts of India and 29 times abroad without informing the SPG.
Priyanka Gandhi had travelled 339 times in Delhi without taking the SPG cover, 64 times in different parts of the country and 94 times abroad, he said.
Shah said the director of the Intelligence Bureau personally went to meet former prime minister Manmohan Singh and conveyed to him about withdrawing SPG cover and assured him that after threat assessment, there was no need for the SPG.
"Manmohan Singh Ji himself asked Director IB to do what he feels is right. There's no point of not responding to his letter," he said.
The home minister said the IB Director sought time from the members of the Gandhi family to inform them about the decision of withdrawal of SPG coverage but was told "whatever you want to do, please go ahead".
Shah said post threat-assessment, protection was removed for family members of IK Gujral and Narasimha Rao among others.
"No one made a noise. I want to assure that no security has been reduced. Instead, it has been increased. Why do you need the SPG cover," he asked.
"Congress needs to learn to accept the people's mandate. They are not in power anymore," he said.
He said the SPG is formed by jawans from the CRPF, the BSF and several other security agencies.
"The SPG will not just care about the prime minister's physical security, but also cover his office, his health and communications among other things," Shah said.
Without taking anyone's name, he said the person concerned used to go for late night bike ride in the capital at a speed of 100 km per hour.
Replying to Congress MP Gaurav Gogoi, who alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi broke the SPG protocol during Gujarat assembly polls when he took a seaplane ride from the Sabarmati river in Ahmedabad, Shah said the SPG assessed the seaplane and one SPG personnel accompanied the prime minister.
Modi took that risk to promote tourism and not to enjoy unlike people driving motor cycle late night at 100 km per hour.
Earlier, initiating the debate, Shah said the SPG was formed on the 1985 recommendations of the Birbal Nath committee and then a law was enacted in 1988.
However, various amendments were brought in 1991, 1994, 1999 and 2003 which diluted its purpose, he said, adding that the government is working to make the SPG more efficient and to rule out any negligence.
One of the amendments brought family members of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi, which included Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and Priyanka, under the SPG cover, he said.
Participating in the debate, Manish Tewari (Congress) said that "whenever such negative steps were taken, the country had to bear the brunt.
"He said in spite of repeated threats, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was not given security. Inadequate security, he said, led to the former prime minister's assassination.
"If the former prime minister was given security rising above bureaucracy then he would have been sitting with us in this house," Tewari said.
Satya Pal Singh (BJP) said that SPG cover should be provided only to Prime Minister and not to anyone else.
A Raja (DMK) claimed the amendment was being undertaken for political reasons.
Security should be based on threat perception, he said, adding political leaders have been assassinated for political reasons.
He also asked Shah to revisit the SPG (Amendment) Bill.
Sudip Bandyopadhyay (Trinamool Congress) said that the government should review the CRPF security being provided to various persons including political leaders.
He further said that while West Bengal Governor has CRPF security, the Chief Minister goes around like a common citizen.
K G Madhav (YSRCP) and Rajiv Ranjan Singh (JD-U) said that security should not linked to social status but must be based on threat perception.
P R Natarajan (CPI-M) said that law making should be undertaken to settle personal vendetta and urged the Home Minister to withdraw the Bill.