The Lok Sabha was adjourned for the day today amid a war of words between the Congress and the government over the stone-pelting on Rahul Gandhi, with the former alleging that the attack had put his life at risk and the Home Minister wondering why the Congress vice president went abroad without his SPG cover. Responding to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s allegation that last week’s stone pelting incident in Gujarat could have killed Rahul, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the Congress vice president has violated the security protocol on several occasions in India and abroad. Rahul and party President Sonia Gandhi were not present in the House. Countering the Congress charges, the Home Minister said in the past two years, Rahul had carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours. He did not use the bullet proof car on 100 occasions. The offices of the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi were informed of the violations. Rahul went on foreign tours and informed the SPG at the eleventh hour, creating problems for it to provide proper security, the Minister said while responding to the issue raised by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
In the last two years, Rahul has been out on six foreign visits for 72 days. He did not take along his SPG cover on these occasions, Singh told the Lok Sabha. “Where did he go? He deliberately did not move with the SPG cover. It is violative of the SPG Act enacted by Parliament,” he said, alleging he has neglected his own security. The SPG was constituted and trained specially to provide protection to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in view of the threats to him. The SPG Act was later amended to provide security to former Prime Ministers and their immediate family members. Singh’s sharp attack highlighted Gandhi’s trips abroad, an issue which has often been used by the BJP to attack him. His remarks led Congress members to troop into the well with placards and were heard shouting slogans like ‘Hitlershahi nahin chalegi’. “What does he want to hide by not taking the SPG along, the nation and the House want to know,” Singh said.
Earlier, Kharge said when Rahul visited Gujarat’s flood- hit areas, stones were pelted on his car and dubbed it as a “life-threatening attack”. “It is said in Jammu and Kashmir, terrorists hurl stones. Which Jammu and Kashmir terrorist was in Gujarat? Or BJP workers became terrorists,” he said. At this, BJP members shouted at Kharge and a war of words broke out in the House. Kharge alleged that the Centre and the state government failed to extend security. “Was the security deliberately ignored? We will have to see,” he said.
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Responding to the attacks by BJP that Congress MLAs were not in the state and tucked away in a Karnataka resort, he said the BJP should explain where was the state Chief Minister during the floods and whether stones were hurled at him also. “Had the stone hit Rahul, he would have lost his life. There were attempts to kill him. He is son of a martyr, hence we are not afraid,” the Congress leader said. He said the BJP should apologise for the incident and there should be action against the culprits. In his response, Rajnath Singh said Rahul was a national leader and a respected member of this House. “Rahul Gandhi is invaluable (anmol dharohar)”. He said the Congress leader was provided with a bullet- resistant car and a jammer. But at the helipad, he agreed with his aide to travel in a Toyota Fortuner but not the bullet-proof car and ignored the advice of the SPG to use the special vehicle.
Singh hailed the SPG for making its trained driver drive the Fortuner SUV. “Rahul got down the car in violation of security protocol. He stopped at places where there was no pre- scheduled programme,” the Minister said. At his rally venue, 4,000 people had gathered. Some came with black flags. Rahul left the venue early. At Lal Chowk in Dhanera, a stone was hurled by a person. It hit the rear window, injuring an SPG personnel on his arm, he said. A case under various sections of the IPC was lodged and the person is in judicial custody. The Chief Minister has asked an additional director general of police to probe the incident, Singh said. “He should have used the bullet-resistant car. It was a clear violation of security protocol.
On the second occasion too, he did not use the bullet-proof car. The SPG provided him body cover by standing on the footboard of the car,” he said. The Home minister said that in the past too, he has violated the security protocol. “In the past two years, he carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours. He did not use the bullet restrained car on 100 occasions. The office of the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi were informed of the violations,” Singh said.
Rahul went on foreign tours and informed the SPG at the eleventh hour, creating problems for it to provide proper security, he said. “On six occasions, he was out of the country for 72 days. Where did he go? He deliberately did not move with an SPG cover. It is violative of the SPG Act enacted by Parliament. The Supreme Court had also said that security over is inherent part of the protected. He neglected his own security.” Taking a dig at the Congress, Singh said even Gujarat Chief Minister undertook a tour of the flooded areas. Why was there no protest against him? The Congress has to introspect. “He (Rahul) was there on disaster tourism”, the minister said. “Stone pelting either on politician or security forces is not acceptable,” Singh said.
Amid slogan shouting, the Lok Sabha was adjourned till noon for 30 minutes. When the House assembled again, Sudip Bandhopadhyay (TMC) said the Lok Sabha should condemn the attack and termed it condemnable and disgraceful. Such an attack is reflective of the intolerance in the society, he said. He also agreed with the point that the Congress leader should use the SPG protection.
As the Speaker proceeded with other affairs of the business, Congress members pressed ahead with their noisy protests, forcing her to adjourn the House till tomorrow.