Parliament gives nod to new SPG Bill, denies Gandhis top security cover

The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill 2019 restricting use of elite SPG only to the Prime Minister and his/her family members residing with him/her at official address.

The passage of the bill came amidst protests by Congress members in the upper House over the security breach in Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s residence a few days ago.

“Security cannot be a status symbol; why this clamour for SPG,” home minister Amit Shah said in the House during the debate on the bill.

“Threat and security cover should be delinked and SPG cover should only be for the head of state,” the minister added.

“This is the 5th amendment in the SPG Act. This amendment is not brought in by keeping Gandhis in mind, but, one thing that I can say for sure is that the previous 4 amendments were done by keeping only one family in mind,” Shah further said, adding, “three members of Gandhi family being given security cover by personnel who were part of SPG previously.”

Taking a potshot at Congress, Shah said that when SPG security cover of Manmohan Singh and other non-Gandhi families was withdrawn, the party members did not demand discussion in the House.

Home Minister also clarified that there was political vendetta in bringing The Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill.

The Congress, which criticised the amendment, walked out of Rajya Sabha saying it is dissatisfied with the Home Minister’s reply on the amendment to the SPG Act.

The government, Shah said, takes the decision of providing security cover on scientific threat analysis for a particular individual.

The passage of the amendments to the SPG Act will pave the way for only the prime minister and his “immediate family residing with him at his official residence”, as well as any former prime minister and members of his immediate family “residing with him at the residence allotted to him for a period of five years, from the date he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister” to be given SPG cover.

Shah said if anyone it was Narendra Modi who will be impacted by this amendment as cover will be withdrawn after five years of his ceasing to be the Prime Minister.

On the security breach at the residence of Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, he said the security was informed that her brother Rahul Gandhi would be visiting her in a black ‘Tata Safari’ SUV but instead of him some Congress workers from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh came in a similar vehicle and so were allowed in the house.

He said a high-level inquiry has been ordered into the security breach and three personnel have been suspended.

He said three members of Gandhi family have been given Z-plus top-grade security cover with ambulance and are guarded by personnel who were part of SPG previously.

Replying to the Left’s charge of BJP acting with a political vendetta, he said 120 workers of BJP and RSS have been killed in Kerala.

Earlier, the Congress attacked the government over the security breach, alleging that the incident showed that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah had put the lives of its leaders at risk.

The opposition party also said it wanted to protest inside Parliament over the issue as the home minister had told the Lok Sabha that adequate security will be provided to the Gandhi family, despite the withdrawal of the SPG (Special Protection Group) cover.