M A I N   N E W S

IN: Rahul Gandhi
OUT: Congress workers
SPG has its way
Swati Chaturvedi

New Delhi, November 28
Is Congress MP Rahul Gandhi safe in the Congress party headquarters — 24 Akbar Road?

The SPG believes that the recently appointed General Secretary of the party is not safe in office and wants the entire office empty when he visits.

Rahul Gandhi does not agree and finds the “sanitization” of the premises “restrictive’’ and chafes every time party workers are asked to leave when he goes to the office.

So far the SPG has had its way but in the words of a senior leader: “Jawaharlal Nehru used to meet workers freely. Now even the AICC is not considered safe for the Gandhi family?”

Fresh amendments to the Special Protection Group Act will ensure that UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, her two children, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and daughter Priyanka Vadra, her son-in-law Robert Vadra along with her two grandchildren will be exempted from frisking at all security check-points while the three service chiefs will be searched.

While SPG protection is available to former PMs for five years after demitting office an exemption has been made for members of the Gandhi family who face what is blandly described as “high threat perception’’. This has led to what a senior official security official says are “idiotic” notices being put up in all airports which state that “Mr Robert Vadra is exempt from frisking while travelling with SPG protection”.

With the three Service chiefs still licking their wounds after the Aviation Ministry said that they would still have to go through mandatory security at all airports, politicians and their security detail have come in for renewed scrutiny.

Some examples will suffice. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, who enjoys National Security Guard protection and a commando detail of the UP police, insists on being driven to the tarmac at every airport.

A pliant UPA government, which is known to give in to all her whims, gave in without a murmur. Union Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav’s son gets into a scuffle with the Bihar police guarding Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and his security detail provided by the Centre wades into the fight.

Says a senior official bitterly: “Highly trained commandos have been reduced to being nannies and baby-sitters for spoilt brats.’’ The NSG which was created to handle hijacks and anti-terrorist operations now has a large proportion of the force handling VVIP security, something it’s personnel chafe at.

Senior SPG officials are still upset at the case of Mr Nand Lal who was part of the security cover at 10 Janpath - Mrs Gandhi’s residence - and who recently left the force after she gave him a ticket to contest the Himachal elections. Says a senior official: ``We do not know how to deal with this phenomenon. Its removes all professional distances. All security personnel are meant to be shifted after a certain period but these VVIPs intervene and insist that their favourites not be transferred out.’’

Or take the case of road tolls. It is considered a huge status symbol to be exempt from paying it and huge lists are put up at every junction listing those who can travel gratis. Even the Prime Minister’s Office is not spared and a sign of having arrived in the corridors of power is to feature in a list put up near the metal detector listing those who are allowed to walk in with their mobile phones.



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