Rajat Sharma

PM Security: Most important, don’t politicize

akb fullA major security breach took place in the Prime Minister’s security close to the India-Pakistan border in Punjab on Wednesday. The PM’s cavalcade was stopped on a flyover for 15 to 20 minutes, as protesters blocked his path with tractor trolleys and trucks. This was unprecedented in the history of SPG (Special Protection Group) which guards the Prime Minister round-the-clock. SPG guards immediately took position on the flyover with their weapons and the PM’s cavalcade had to make a U-turn and return to Bhatinda airport. The Prime Minister’s scheduled rally in Ferozepur was cancelled.

A Congress government is in Punjab. Security officials tried to contact the Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi over phone, but the CM did not take the call. Later, the chief minister tried to wash off his hands by saying that the PM’s route was changed at the last minute and that his office had no information about the change of route. He said, what could police do if people came on the road to block the cavalcade.

The Prime Minister expressed his hurt and displeasure after his return to Bathinda airport. According to ANI, “Officials at Bhatinda airport said, PM Modi told officials there, “Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki main Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paya”.

Too many questions arise from this incident, whether it was gross negligence or a conspiracy? Only the SPG and Punjab Police knew about the change in PM’s route. Who gave this information to the protesters? The responsibility of state police is to sanitize the route that is taken by the PM’s cavalcade. Did Punjab Police deliberate gave the information about PM’s route to the protesters who were present there with their tractor trolleys? If there was apprehension about such a protest, why didn’t the state police and intelligence convey this to SPG? Why did the Punjab DGP assure SPG that the route would be sanitized? When the PM’s convoy was stuck on the flyover for 20 minutes, why didn’t state police officials take immediate steps to clear the route? These are big questions and people need an answer. This is not a political issue, it relates to the security of our Prime Minister.

Let me recap about the incident. The Prime Minister was supposed to lay the foundation of projects in Punjab worth Rs 32,750 crores at a rally in Ferozepur. He landed at Bathinda airport and was scheduled to go to Hussainiwala to lay wreath at the National Martyrs Memorial, close to the India-Pakistan border. Since the weather was bad due to consistent rains, he waited at the airport for 20 minutes for his chopper to take off. Modi had two options: either to return to Delhi or go to Hussainiwala by road. It was a two hours’ drive. SPG officials contacted Punjab DGP, who assured that the route was sanitized and that there were adequate security arrangements.

The PM’s convoy left for Hussainiwala, a distance of 170 km. Nearly 30 km away from Hussainiwala, his convoy stopped on a flyover, because there were trucks, buses and more than 20 tractors blocking it. SPG commandos immediately came out and took positions with their weapons. SPG officials frantically tried to contact the Punjab CM, but he did not take their phone calls. The Prime Minister sat in his vehicle, waiting for 20 minutes. It was for the first time in the history of PM security, that the Prime Minister had to wait on a road for the block to be cleared. Twenty minutes later, SPG officials decided to return to Bhatinda, and the PM’s rally was called off. There were several vehicles of BJP leaders following the PM’s convoy. When the convoy took a U-turn and returned, several leaders used their smartphones to record the return of the PM.

The Ministry of Home Affairs immediately sought a report from Punjab government about this serious breach of PM’s security. The PM’s travel plans in Punjab had been communicated to the state police in advance. Punjab Police was expected to make arrangements for security, logistics and contingency plans. The presence of protesters on the route, with tractors, makes it clear that the state police had not done adequate arrangements. Extra layers of security were expected on the PM’s route when the convoy passes, but this was not done. At the Ferozepur rally, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya told thousands of people waiting that due to some reasons, the PM has returned to Bathinda and the rally stands cancelled.

The BJP condemned the Congress government in Punjab for this major breach of security. Party president J P Nadda tweeted: “It is sad that the Prime Minister’s programme for announcing launch of thousands of crores of rupees worth projects could not take place due to obstruction. We will not allow such low level mental approach to become an obstacle in the path of Punjab’s progress. The Punjab CM Channi refused to talk over phone. The approach of Punjab government will surely hurt every person who believes in democratic principles. Protesters were allowed to go towards the PM and his security was compromised. Chief Secretary and DGP had promised that the PM’s route was clear.”

UP chief minister Yogi Adityanath said, “what happened in Punjab is unimaginable. It clearly exposes the atmosphere of anarchy and lack of law and order that prevails in Punjab. The Congress government in Punjab should tender apology for making a mockery of the Prime Minister’s security. This security breach is unpardonable and smacks of conspiracy on part of Congress.”

Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan alleged that there was conspiracy on part of the Congress government. He said, “Prime Minister Modi is the people’s leader. The Congress, fearing defeat in the Punjab elections, is disrupting the institutional safeguards at the behest of its party high command. This is nothing but criminal conspiracy.”

Union Minister Smriti Irani said, “We know Congress hates Modi, but today they tried to harm India’s Prime Minister. The state government knowingly constructed a scenario where the PM could have been brought to harm…So many people reaching there is not just a coincidence, it’s a conspiracy. Punjab Police remained a mute spectator, and no security protocol was followed.” BJP’s political ally and former Punjab CM Capt Amarinder Singh said, “law and order has totally collapsed in Punjab as protesters blocked the Prime Minister’s convoy, close to the Pakistan border. The Congress has no moral right to stay in power in the state.

All questions point towards the Congress and what Chief Minister Channi said in his defence, is not adequate. These questions are justified, and such questions beg answers. As per protocol, the CM, Chief Secretary and DGP are expected to be present whenever the Prime Minister reaches a state. All these three were absent. With two members of Channi’s staff found positive, the CM has gone into self-isolation for three days. He sent his Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal to receive the PM at the airport. No one knows why the Chief Secretary and DGP were absent.

Channi and his ministers are now giving a political twist to all questions that are being asked. Congress media chief Randeep Surjewala claimed that nearly 10,000 policemen were deployed for the PM’s rally in Ferozepur. Security arrangements were also provided for buses carrying BJP supporters, he claimed. He tried to put the blame on PM’s security officials, saying that the change in route was done at the last moment catching the state police unawares. Chief Minister Channi said that state police officials even offered the SPG to take the PM’s convoy by another route to Ferozepur for the rally, but the SPG decided to return to Bathinda.

The Prime Minister of the world’s most populous democracy, stuck on a flyover inside his vehicle for 15-20 minutes is not a normal incident. It is a major security breach. The Punjab CM and his police had advance information about the PM’s route. To say that the route was changed at the last moment, is ridiculous.

Whenever a Prime Minister undertakes a tour, alternate routes are always kept ready. The number of protesters present at the flyover was few. They could have been easily removed by the local police. But police did not get orders from higher-ups. The question is: who gave the information about sudden change in PM’s route to these protesters? Till 10.30 am, the flyover was open, traffic was running smoothly and there was not a single protester. But when the PM’s convoy reached the flyover, suddenly these protesters emerged. How? Had the intent of police been clear, they could have easily removed these protesters who had come with their tractors.

To claim that it was not a security lapse, reveals lack of administrative experience on part of the Punjab Chief Minister. Who would have been held responsible if any physical harm was caused to the PM? The saddest part is that Congress leaders tried to politicize a sensitive security-related issue in this manner. One of their youth leaders had the temerity to write on Twitter addressing the PM; “How’s the Josh?” Keep politics away from security related issues.

Leave elections aside, the security of the Prime Minister is a major issue. This issue is not related to an individual, it is the office of the Prime Minister. There cannot be any compromise on the issue of Prime Minister’s security. The Chief Minister of Punjab must realize the enormity of this issue and nobody should be allowed to indulge in politics over this incident.

Get connected on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Comments are closed.