Centre and Punjab government formed two separate committees on Thursday to probe the security lapses that led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy being stranded on a flyover in Punjab’s Ferozepur on Wednesday.
The constitution of committees were announced as BJP and Congress continued to engage in a verbal spat on the issue, with the latter playing down the incident.
The Prime Minister’s event at Ferozepur was cancelled after his convoy was stuck on a flyover for 15-20 minutes as the road was blocked by protesters near the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala.
The Ministry of Home Affairs termed it “a major lapse in the security of PM”. It sought a detailed report from the State government and asked it to fix responsibility for the lapse and take strict action.
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi on Thursday said it was wrong to blame his government for the Prime Minister going back without addressing an event and the actual reason for the decision was the “poor response” to Mr. Modi’s proposed gathering in Ferozepur.
At a rally in Machhiwara, he stated, “Punjabis have never ever shied away from making sacrifices for the nation and none can question the nationalistic credentials of Punjab. The fact of the matter surrounding the Prime Minister going back without addressing the gathering was that barely 700 people turned up at rally site. This forced him to retrace his steps and later the blame was pinned on our government citing security threat to Mr. Modi. The truth is that five days before the scheduled rally of the Prime Minister, the Special Protection Group [SPG] took over the landing spot, rally site and each security detail but later on the Prime Minister’s cavalcade suddenly took land route.”
The route was cleared by the SPG, he noted.
Mr. Channi asked forces inimical to Punjab to stop defaming the State. “The anti-Punjab forces should shun vendetta politics and ponder over why the people especially farmers don’t like them,” he stressed.
‘Exposed to risk’
The Ministry of Home Affairs said in a tweet that it had constituted a committee to enquire into the serious lapses in the security arrangements during the Prime Minister's visit to Ferozepur on January 5 “which led to the exposure of the VVIP to grave security risk”.
The three-member committee will be led by Sudhir Kumar Saxena, Secretary (Security), Cabinet Secretariat with other members being-Balbir Singh, Joint Director, Intelligence Bureau and S. Suresh, Inspector General, Special Protection Group.
“The committee is advised to submit the report at the earliest,” MHA said.
A statement by Punjab government said, “In order to carry out a thorough probe into the lapses that occurred during Prime Minister’s visit to Ferozepur yesterday, the Punjab government has constituted a high-level committee”. The committee, comprising Justice Mehtab Singh Gill (retd.) and Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice AnuragVerma, would submit its report within three days.
Pointing the finger at Mr. Channi for the security lapse, the BJP dismissed the State government’s probe committee. Terming it a mere ‘eyewash’, its State president Ashwani Sharma said the Chief Minister was behind the whole conspiracy and, therefore, the committee would not be able to find the truth behind the incident.
The BJP had urged Governor Banwarilal Purohit to suspend State’s Home Minister and the Director General of Police. Mr. Sharma alleged that necessary protocols were not followed to receive the Prime Minister. “Also, who leaked the Prime Minister’s route is something that is a matter of probe,” he observed after a delegation of BJP leaders met the Governor on the issue.
“The PMs’ security breach was a conspiracy which was hatched by the Congress party. Punjab is a border State and Ferozepur is a short distance from Pakistan. The Director General of Police had given clearance to the Prime Minister’s convoy to travel on the route. It is the duty of the State to provide a safe route and all protocols were dumped while putting the Prime Minister in an extremely sensitive and fragile security situation and anything could have happened on that bridge,” he said.
Mr. Sharma blamed the Congress for creating an atmosphere which was “worse than Emergency” and regretted that a colossal loss to the psyche of Punjabis had been inflicted by the Congress government.
“It was a murder of democracy as hurdles were created and all roads leading to Ferozepurwere barricaded so that buses ferrying people from the State all over were stranded and the police acted in cahoots with the State government,” he said.
Amarinder criticises Channi
Former Chief Minister and head of the Punjab Lok Congres Captain Amarinder Singh (retd.) hit out at Mr. Channi and Deputy Chief Minister and Home Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa for “behaving like cowards by running away from their responsibilities”.
Addressing a public meeting at Samana, he said, “there was a grave security lapse and the Chief Minister Channi and the Deputy Chief Minister Randhawa, who heads the Home department, should own the responsibility. True leaders own up responsibilities and do not pass the buck on others. This is no leadership, it is cowardice.”