Divested of security cover under the Special Protection Group (SPG), Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi is now set to lose the specially-reinforced Range Rover SUV, which came with the 3,000-strong elite force's protection. Sonia has instead been alloted a 2010 make Tata Safari with ballistic resistance, media reports said.
Earlier this month, the SPG cover for the Gandhis " Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka Vadra " was withdrawn and they were placed under the Z-plus category, which ensures security cover by around 100 CRPF personnel along with reinforcement from Delhi Police force as and when required.
A similar exercise took place with former prime minister Manmohan Singh as well, whose security detail has been downgraded to Z-Plus category. However, Manmohan was allowed to retain the armoured BMW 7-Series luxury saloon.
After the change in the security status, Sonia was seen entering the Parliament premise through the Gate number one like all other MPs. She earlier used Gate number 5, like Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Her son and former Congress president Rahul Gandhi has been using Gate number 4, which several Z+ protectees, including Home Minister Amit Shah, also use.
The Congress has been raising the issue in Parliament, questioning government's objective behind cutting down security for the members of the Gandhi family. On Wednesday too, hundreds of Congress youth-wing members descended on the streets in central Delhi and burnt an effigy of the home minister to protest the withdrawal of SPG security cover of the Gandhis. The matter was raised in Rajya Sabha as well, by Congress leader Anand Sharma, who demanded restoration of the SPG cover to the Gandhi family and former prime minister Manmohan Singh by "rising above partisan politics" but senior BJP leaders maintained the decision was taken by the Home Ministry based on threat perception.
Defending the government's decision to downgrade the security cover, senior BJP MP Subramanian Swamy said the decision has been taken by the Home Ministry, and moreover the threat perception to the Gandhis has disappeared with the end of the LTTE in Sri Lanka. BJP working president JP Nadda said no politics should be seen in the move to replace their security cover. He said the Home Ministry has a "set pattern" and "protocol" in assessing threat perceptions to leaders
It is interesting to note here that in the past, under the UPA rule, media reports suggests that Sonia prefers to have a lean cavalcade. A Indian Today report from the time stated that she usually prefers a Tata Safari, with three more vehicles including a jammer, in her cavalcade.
The SPG was set up in 1985 after the assassination of prime minister Indira Gandhi. Parliament passed the SPG Act in 1988, dedicating the group to protecting the prime minister.
With inputs from agencies