A day after the centre withdrew Special Protection Group (SPG) cover for the Gandhi family, Sonia Gandhi has written to SPG chief Arun Sinha to thank the agency for protecting her family with "dedication and discretion". Mrs Gandhi said the family felt a "great sense of reassurance and confidence" in being protected by the SPG, which she called an outstanding force. Mrs Gandhi and her children - Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra - will now only have Z Plus category protection.
"Ever since our security was put in the hands of the SPG, my family and I have felt a great sense of reassurance and confidence that we are in the best possible hands. Every day, for the last 28 years, we have experienced the unfailing high professionalism, dedication to duty and sincerity with which the SPG protect us," Sonia Gandhi wrote in her letter.
"The SPG is an outstanding force, its members imbued with courage and patriotism... on behalf of my whole family, I would like to express our deep appreciation and gratitude to the SPG for looking after our security and well-being with such dedication, discretion and personal care," she wrote.
According to government sources, the decision to remove SPG cover came after a recent security review. Sources also referred to multiple instances when the Gandhi family "did not cooperate and impeded the smooth functioning of the SPG".
The sources claimed both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra had sought to taint the SPG's reputation, adding Ms Gandhi Vadra threatened legal action after alleging SPG teams were gathering private information about her and her family and sharing it with unauthorised persons.
However, in her letter, which was re-tweeted by the Congress party on its official Twitter handle, Mrs Gandhi sought to make it clear she held the SPG in highest regard.
On Friday, shortly after the centre announced its decision, Rahul Gandhi took to Twitter and thanked his "brothers and sisters in the SPG".
"A big thank you to all my brothers & sisters in the SPG who worked tirelessly to protect me & my family over the years. Thank you for your dedication, your constant support & for a journey filled with affection & learning. It has been a privilege. All the best for a great future," he wrote.
A big thank you to all my brothers & sisters in the SPG who worked tirelessly to protect me & my family over the years. Thank you for your dedication, your constant support & for a journey filled with affection & learning. It has been a privilege. All the best for a great future.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) November 8, 2019
The centre's decision to withdraw SPG cover led to massive protests outside Home Minister Amit Shah's residence in Delhi and party leaders slammed the ruling BJP for "vindictive politics".
The SPG was set up in 1985; a year after former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards. After Rajiv Gandhi's assassination, the SPG Act was amended to provide security to former Prime Ministers and their families for 10 years.
In 2003, the BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had SPG cover till he died last year, amended it again to bring the period of automatic protection from 10 years to one; this could be revised depending on threat levels.
The Gandhi family, which has seen the assassination of two of its members, has always been among India's most protected, apart from the Prime Minister and a select few. Now, with the withdrawal of cover to the family, the 3,000-strong SPG will now only protect Prime Minister Modi.