PM Modi avoids hotels, stays at airports during transit: Shah
On Wednesday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, while addressing the Lok Sabha, said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not stay at luxury hotels while halting in night for technical reasons or aircraft refuelling, during his foreign visits. He opts to rest and take a bath at airport terminals, instead. Shah made these remarks, during discussions over the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019.
Context: The government recently downgraded Gandhi family's security
Shah's comments came as he defended the government's move to downgrade the security cover of the Gandhi family from SPG to Z+ security. The Home Minister claimed that there have been 600 instances when members of the Gandhi family violated norms by traveling without SPG security cover. Notably, his remarks prompted a walkout from the Congress party, which accused him of "political vendetta".
'Modiji takes less than 20 percent staff on abroad visits'
Further, Shah said, "In his personal and public life, Modiji has followed a very disciplined regimen. For instance whenever he goes on state visit abroad, he takes less than 20% staff with him." "Similarly for the official delegation, he has discouraged using a large number of cars. Earlier, officials were using separate cars... now they use a bus or large vehicle," he added.
For some, security cover has been a status symbol: Shah
Shah also accused the Gandhi family of misusing the SPG security cover on many occasions, while asserting that PM Modi has never violated the security blue book in the past 20 years. "For some, security cover has been a status symbol. But let's follow the example of Modiji who adheres to the security norms and protocols," he said.
When Congress alleged security violations by Modi, Shah denied
During the debate, as Congress' Gaurav Gogoi alleged that PM Modi violated the SPG blue book during a seaplane ride in 2017, Shah rubbished those allegations. "The seaplane was thoroughly checked and cleared by the SPG and SPG personnel were deployed inside the seaplane. Besides. the objective of ride was to promote tourism in Gujarat. It was not a personal fun ride," he said.
SPG was set up in 1985, following Indira Gandhi's assassination
It should be noted that the Special Protection Group (SPG), which comprises 3,000 security personnel, was set up in 1985, following the assassination of the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the year before. Later, in 1991, after the assassination of Indira's son and former PM Rajiv Gandhi, SPG Act was amended to allow forces to protect former prime ministers for a period of 10 years.
Now, what is the SPG (Amendment) Bill, 2019?
The SPG (Amendment) Bill 2019, that was passed by the Lok Sabha yesterday, now entails protection to the Prime Minister and their immediate family residing with them at PM's official residence. Further, the SPG shall continue providing protection to former PMs and their immediate families residing with them, for a period of five years, starting the day they vacate the office of the PM.