By Arun Srivastava
Never before in the history of our country, a Prime Minister had cast aspersion on the state’s chief minister as was done by Narendra Modi on Wednesday in Punjab. Modi on his return to Bhatinda airport after his aborted visit to Ferozepur had told a senior Punjab official, “Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki mein Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paaya.”
While Modi blamed the chief minister of Punjab of not taking sufficient security measures for his protection. He by implication attributed that chief minister by ignoring his security has in fact endangered PM’s life. Modi’s allegation has been of serious nature as it charged the state with threatening his life. This is a very serious nature of allegation and when a prime minister utters this it attains precarious dimension.
It has been an open secret that farmers owing allegiance to Surjit Singh Phool’s Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Krantikari group have been agitating for realisation of their demands. On Wednesday they had sat on the flyover of Ferozepur district. The farmers are intensely opposed to BJP. It is not that Modi was unaware of it. Modi’s vehicle was stuck there for 20 on the way from Bathinda to Hussainiwala National Martyrs’ Memorial in Ferozepur.
The BKU Krantikari (Phool) is part of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which spearheads the protest against the now repealed farm laws at the borders of Delhi. Baldev Singh Zira, general secretary of the BKU Krantikari (Phool) said the farmers were sitting on a dharna at three places on Wednesday; on the flyover; in Harika with the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (PKMSC); and in Kulgarhi. He denied of the information that PM would be travelling on this road. Zira said; “We were not aware about his road trip at all. We were there to stop the BJP supporters, and not the Prime Minister, who was supposed to go by helicopter”
Besides BKU the PKMSC was sitting at five places on highways, and protesting at the district headquarters. The PKMSC lifted their protests after officials assured them that the PM would meet them on March 15 to discuss the pending demands of the farmers, including MSP for all crops, withdrawal of all cases filed against the farmers during their protest, and compensation and government jobs for the next of kin of farmers who died during the protest.
Nevertheless Modi’s accusation also puts the Union Home Minister and his ministry under scanner. If a plan has been hatched out against the prime minister, how could home ministry allow Modi undertake a visit to that state?
In such situation it is the responsibility of the Union home ministry to take charge of his security with active involvement of the state. It is strange that ministry of Home Affairs simply sought a report from the state government asking how the PM’s cavalcade was stranded on a flyover for over 15 minutes due to a protest, when his programme had been duly communicated to the state police. “The PM’s schedule and travel plan was communicated well in advance to Punjab Government. As per procedure, they have to make necessary arrangements for logistics, security as well as keep a contingency plan ready.”
Though the MHA has sought a detailed report on Wednesday’s security breach in Punjab such dereliction of security procedure in the Prime Minister’s visit is totally unacceptable and accountability has to be fixed. The MHA said in a statement; “also in view of the contingency plan Punjab Government has to deploy additional security to secure any movement by road, which was clearly not deployed”. It obviously implied that PM did not face any threat. It was a safe journey.
On his part chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi told newsmen, “The Prime Minister was not attacked. There was no threat to his life. It was just an agitation. There was a peaceful protest on the way. This is wrong to say that there was a security lapse. There should not be any politics in this. We have respect for our PM.”
He added, “All this happened because the PM’s way of travel was changed at the last minute. Yet, the PM’s office was informed beforehand that agitators had assembled on the road. He decided to cancel his rally. His team took the decision of cancelling the rally. He could have used his chopper.”
The chronology and the narratives of the incident make it explicit that Modi’s allegation is merely an election gimmick (jumla). He is expert in uttering jumlas and lies and once again he has resorted to this machination purely with the view to split the Hindu-Sikh unity. His intension to show him as the victim, a person facing threat to his life, is primarily aimed at raising the bogey of presence of terrorists and terrorism in the state. By putting himself at stake, he intends to put the Hindus against the Sikhs. During the farmers’ agitation allegation were being made that the terrorists, Khalistanis and other extremists groups have been active among the farmers and they were in fact patronising and motivating the farmers. But the senior BJP leaders and union cabinet ministers could not substantiate their allegations.
The Indian intelligence agencies, especially the NIA, has high order of credibility for its excellence and expertise. Any kind of security lapse must have come to their knowledge. Nevertheless the allegation coming from the Prime Minister cannot be outright dismissed as untenable. Since the issue relates to the highest nature of national security, the Supreme Court suo moto must order a high level probe. It must also seek the clarification from the top bosses of these agencies as to how could this evade their attention.
The BJP leaders taking the incident seriously have diminished the significance of the incidence. BJP chief JP Nadda alleged that Punjab chief minister “refused to get on phone to either address the matter or solve it.” He related the incident to the development of the state. In fact his statement deprives the incident of the gravity and seriousness which Modi intended to attribute. He even alleged that the state police was instructed to prevent people from attending the rally.
Amit Shah has been trying to put the blame for security lapses as usual on Congress; “Today’s Congress-made happening in Punjab is a trailer of how this party thinks and functions. Repeated rejections by the people have taken them to the path of insanity. The topmost echelons of the Congress owe an apology to the people of India for what they have done. The PM’s schedule and travel plan was communicated well in advance to Punjab Government.”
In fact the change of the scheduled rout at the eleventh hour makes it imperative that the decision had a definite political nature and dynamics. This planning was complete amiss is evident from the fact that Modi had to wait for 20 minutes on the fly over. Since the union government was aware of the farmers’ hostility towards the BJP and Narendra Modi it should have been more proactive and alert. But these two indices were absent.
Reacting to the incident Channi says, “No security lapse. PM’s road plans were made at the last minute. He was supposed to go by helicopter. I was up late at night overseeing security arrangements for his rally. 70,000 chairs were put up for rally but only 700 people turned up.”
Around 10,000 security personnel were deployed for Modi’s rally, all arrangements were made in tandem with SPG & other agencies, route was carved even for all buses of BJP workers from Haryana/Rajasthan. PM decision to take a road journey to Hussainiwala was not part of his original schedule to travel by road. (IPA Service)