Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Punjab summed up with humiliation on Wednesday, 5 January, and this has spiralled into a war of words between the BJP-led Union government and the Congress-led Punjab government, also on social media. Each political party and their supporters are backing their agenda but none of them points towards those agencies and the Home Minister Amit Shah for these security lapses.
The blame actually lies with a number of agencies. Neither the Punjab Police nor the Special Protection Group responsible for PM’s security can escape blame on this. The shortest route from Bathinda airport to Hussainiwala is 106 km, passing through Kotkapura, Faridkot, and Ferozepur. On a normal day, this would take two to two and a half hours. Why did the Punjab Police give clearance for the PM’s convoy to take this route at such short notice? Why didn’t the SPG red-flag it?
The entire route passes through districts like Bathinda, Faridkot, and Ferozepur, which are in rural Malwa – the epicentre of the farmers’ protest. So surely, central agencies, like the Intelligence Bureau, should have anticipated protests? Ideally, when it was known that it wouldn’t be possible for the PM to travel by chopper from Bathinda to Hussainiwala, his visit should have been cancelled, instead of trying to take him there by road. Above all when briefed to the PM, why did he give his nod?
It isn’t clear whose call it was. The MHA claimed that the Punjab Police gave the clearance. Chief Minister of Punjab Charanjit Singh Channi claimed that the Punjab Police had limited say in the matter and that they had cleared the roads by convincing the protesters. But he also said that the problem occurred due to a last-minute change of plans.
PM landed at Bathinda airport, and from there, he was supposed to go to the national martyr’s memorial at Hussainiwala by helicopter. This is the plan that had been decided upon by the Center and the Punjab government in advance. However, it became clear after landing that going by chopper would not be possible due to bad weather. Therefore, it was decided to take the PM by road to Hussainiwala.
About 25 km before Hussainiwala, and just before Firozpur city, the PM’s cavalcade was stranded allegedly due to protesting farmers blocking the road. The PM’s convoy turned back and went to Bathinda, and all his events were cancelled.
At the airport, ANI quoted the PM as having told the Punjab government officials to “thank your CM that I reached Bathinda airport alive” – in what is being seen as a sarcastic dig at the state government. The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement accusing the Punjab government of a lapse in the PM’s security.
CM Channi held a press conference and expressed regret for what happened. But he also claimed that there was no threat to the PM’s life and that the protesters shouldn’t be seen from a security point of view. Now, the entire row is stuck in between the security aspect and the political aspect.
BJP leader Smriti Irani gave very melodramatic statements to the media, BJP president JP Nadda and several others BJP leaders also attacked the Punjab government for the alleged “security lapse.”
CT Ravi, BJP general secretary went to the extent of tweeting “Desh ke gaddaro ko goli maro (shoot the traitors)”. Pro-BJP channels are running, “Modi managed to escape danger.”
Later on, Wednesday night, the BJP released a video alleging that there was a conspiracy to unleash violence by “Pakistanis, Khalistanis and the Congress” and claimed that it was foiled by PM Modi. The narrative is basically to highlight the alleged “security threat in Punjab” from “anti-nationals” and how the PM is the “only one fighting it”.
The political spin is also evident from the fact that this is not the first time that the PM’s convoy got stranded. But the allegation that his “life was under threat” is being made for the first time in such a situation.