The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Special Protection Group (Amendment) Bill, 2019, a week after it was cleared by the Lok Sabha. The Congress party staged a walkout during voting on the Bill.

The amendments to the Act aims to provide SPG cover for only the prime minister and his “immediate family residing with him at his official residence", as well as any former prime minister and members of his immediate family “residing with him at the residence allotted to him for a period of five years, from the date he ceases to hold the office of Prime Minister."

The passage of bill follows a security breach at Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s residence on 25 November. Senior Congress party leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday turned up the heat on the Centre for the proposed amendments, which the party claims has left the family vulnerable to threats.

“The security at Priyanka Gandhi’s residence does not check family members. The security was told that Rahul Gandhi was coming in a black safari. But instead party workers came to meet her at the specified time. It was coincidental. But the three CRPF guards have been suspended and we have ordered an inquiry," Union home minister Amit Shah said, referring to the security breach.

Fending off allegations of indulging in “political vendetta" by the Congress party, Shah in the Rajya Sabha today said, “It is not true that this Bill has been brought because of three members of the Gandhi family. The threat assessment review of the family has been done as per the previous act and therefore this Bill has no bearing on their security. Instead of SPG they have been given Z+ security. Security is not a status symbol."

The government, Shah added, was concerned about security of “not just the Gandhi family but 130 crore citizens of this country," and said the Opposition had “no right to accuse the BJP of political vendetta when 120 BJP workers had been killed in Kerala alone and no investigation had been carried out."

The Union government recently withdrew SPG cover from the Congress party’s top leadership. The Congress has since alleged that the Centre has left its president Sonia Gandhi and senior leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra vulnerable to security threats.

“After assessment, former Prime Minister Chandrashekhar’s SPG security cover was removed and no Congress member said anything. V.P Singh’s SPG security and Narsimha Rao, I.K Gujral and Manmohan Singh’s SPG cover was also removed. But the Congress did not create any stir. There was no debate then," Shah said, adding that the Gandhis’ security had not been removed, but it had been revised.

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