The issue of last week’s stone attack on Rahul Gandhi led to derailment of the Lok Sabha proceedings on Tuesday, with the Congress members creating uproar, prompting Home Minister Rajnath Singh to hit back by saying that Rahul had violated the security protocol himself.
Singh described Rahul as “anmol dharohar” (invaluable asset) but said he had refused to use a bullet-proof vehicle in Gujarat where the incident took place, thus violating the security protocol like many times earlier.
“Stone-pelting either on politician or security forces is not acceptable,” said the home minister.
He went on to add that the Congress vice president had violated the security protocol on several occasions while on trips inside and outside the country.
Rahul had carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours and did not use the bullet proof car on 100 occasions, Singh said after the Congress members raked up the Gujarat stone attack incident, calling it “life threatening”.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said last week’s incident, in which a man threw a stone at Rahul’s vehicle injuring an Special Protection Group man, could have killed his party vice president.
Kharge alleged that the Centre and the state government had failed to extend security. “Was the security deliberately ignored? We will have to see,” he said.
Rahul and party President Sonia Gandhi were not present in the House.
The home minister, who was attending the House after several weeks as he had fractured his leg, hit back by making a detailed statement regarding Rahul’s security.
Describing Rahul as a national leader and a respected member of this House, Singh said the Congress vice president was provided with a bullet-resistant car and a jammer during his Gujarat tour.
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, he said.
“Rahul got down from 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 Indian Penal Code 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, Rahul has violated the security protocol and his office as well as the office of the Congress president had been 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.
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 said.
“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 Supreme Court had also said that security cover is inherent part of the protectee, Singh said, adding “he 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 brought focus on 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.
“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 Bharatiya Janata Party workers became terrorists,” he said.
At this, BJP members shouted at Kharge and a war of words broke out in the House.
Responding to the attacks by BJP that Congress MLAs were not in the state and tucked away in a Karnataka resort, Kharge 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.
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.
Amid slogan-shouting, the Lok Sabha was adjourned for 30 minutes, till noon.
When the House assembled again, Sudip Bandhopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress said the Lok Sabha should condemn the attack which he termed as 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 Wednesday.
Photograph: PTI Photo