'Rahul restricted SPG personnel cover on personal trips abroad'

NEW DELHI:

In a tectonic shift, the Special Protection Group (SPG) has amended its guidelines for protectees trips abroad, making it mandatory for highly trained commandos to accompany them at all times whenever they travel abroad.

The fresh guidelines were issued after the SPG red-flagged the Gandhi family's trips abroad where the security personnel were sent back many times from the Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) here.

The SPG currently guards the Congress interim President Sonia Gandhi, her son Rahul Gandhi, and daughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.

Official sources here said this decision was taken after the SPG complained that former Congress President Rahul Gandhi was not allowing SPG personnel to accompany him from IGIA during his personal visits.

"SPG personnel had accompanied him only on those visits when he had an official engagement and that trip was further communicated to the Lok Sabha Speaker and Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs," said a source.

A top Indian Police Srvice (IPS) officer said that Rahul Gandhi never allowed SPG personnel to accompany him during his personal trips abroad. The sources here said that the SPG were also not kept in the loop about his whereabouts. According to them, the Indian missions were informed by Gandhi family "only on a need to know basis".

One source said that during Sonia Gandhi's medical trip to the US, the Indian mission was informed and then, too, the SPG personnel did not accompany her.

Moreover, as per the sources, while on their personal trips abroad, the Gandhis used to inform the SPG personnel just 20 to 25 minutes before their arrival at the IGI airport to enable the latter to pick them up

The SPG had flagged the issue with the Home Ministry back in 2017. The matter came up again in 2018 with the request to make changes in the security protocol of protectees having high threat levels.

The IPS officer said: "Finally, the changes were made and the Gandhi family members were informed about the new arrangements."

The new arrangements come in backdrop of Rahul Gandhi leaving country just ahead of the crucial assembly elections in Maharashtra and Haryana scheduled for October 21.

The SPG, headed by 1987-batch officer Arun Kumar Sinha, are also making several other changes in their training module.

The SPG is entrusted with the task of providing proximate security to the Prime Minister and former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members.

Since its inception in 1985, SPG is providing security to its protectees at their office and residence, during local functions and during internal as well as external tours.