The leaders of the opposition Congress in the Lok Sabha today demanded a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah on withdrawal of Special Protection Group (SPG) cover from the Gandhi family.
Mr Shah left the lower house when the Congress leaders started shouting slogans, asking him to make a statement on why SPG security cover was withdrawn from Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, who the leaders said face serious threats.
The three are now protected by the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) under Z plus category, which ensures security cover by around 100 personnel.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury gave a notice to move an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha against the withdrawal of SPG cover to the Gandhi family. An adjournment motion is moved to stop the proceedings of the house to take up the issue raised in the motion. This was rejected by the Speaker.
"Sonia Gandhi ji and Rahul Gandhi ji are not normal protectees. Vajpayee ji had allowed Special Protection Group protection for the Gandhi family. From 1991-2019, NDA came to power twice but their SPG cover was never removed," Mr Chowdhury said.
The protest started when the Congress leader brought up the matter again during question hour. Over 20 leaders of the Congress and the National Conference walked into the well of the lower house during question hour even as Speaker Om Birla asked them to return to their seats. As they continued to protest, Mr Birla asked them to cooperate in running the house. "Today, there is a discussion on farmers' issue. This is not good as you are not interested in discussion over such an important issue," Mr Birla said.
The Congress leaders were heard shouting slogans like "Prime Minister give reply", "please stop revenge politics", "end dictatorship" and "we want justice", news agency Press Trust of India reported.
The Congress leaders than walked out of the Lok Sabha.
The SPG protection to the Gandhi family was removed on November 8. The Gandhi family had been under SPG cover since the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in May, 1991.
The SPG, an elite force of 3,000, are now tasked with protecting only PM Modi. The crack force has more personnel and also offers an advance liaison team that screens places that the protectees will visit.
Defending the decision to remove SPG cover, government sources have told NDTV the Gandhis "did not cooperate and impeded the smooth functioning of the SPG". They referred to instances when the family travelled in non-bulletproof cars and sat on the roof of vehicles. Rahul Gandhi was accused of not taking the SPG on 143 of 156 foreign visits since 1991 and sharing his travel plans only at the eleventh hour.
Sonia Gandhi had tweeted her thanks to the elite force for protecting her family with "dedication and discretion". Rahul Gandhi, too, thanked the SPG for working "tirelessly to protect me and my family over the years".