NEW DELHI: The Special Protection Group (SPG) is not amused at Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s penchant for giving it the slip when he is travelling. Last month, while visiting protesting farmers in Madhya Pradesh, Rahul suddenly took off on a motorcycle in Mandsaur district, startling his protection detail.
SPG has complained to the top brass that he has been travelling for the past three years without adequately apprising them of his itinerary. Its biggest worry is about his trips abroad. The 47-year-old returned to India after nearly a three-week long vacation to ‘undisclosed locations’ in Europe.
SPG sources claimed he skipped out of Heathrow airport, London without telling them, though his itinerary was finalised on June 13. He had announced that he would visit his grandmother and spend some time with the maternal side of his family. Agency sources said since he did not provide a copy of his travel plan, SPG could not give his details to foreign missions—the established protocol for a visiting SPG protectee.
During Rahul Gandhi’s two-month long sabbatical from politics in 2016, he vanished without trace in Bangkok. The Special Protection Group (SPG) had expressed its concern to seniors over Rahul visiting South Asian countries, considered unsafe for SPG protecees. An insider in SPG claimed that even last year, Rahul informed them that he was travelling to Milan, but instead landed in another European city.
“He has constantly avoided sharing his full itinerary, which is a matter of concern for us,” said an official. However, a close aide of Rahul claimed that SPG doesn’t need to be given such details, since he does not hold a constitutional post.
“First of all, SPG has no business to ask for details of his personal visits. He does not want them to travel with him,” he said.
Rahul’s office could not be reached for comment.
At present, members of the Gandhi family to whom SPG detail has been allotted apart from Rahul are Sonia Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, Robert Vadra (when he is accompanying his wife) and their children. The SPG falls directly under the command of the Cabinet Secretariat, and is headed by Secretary (Security).