PM left Punjab due to poor turnout at rally; no security breach, but regret incident, says Channi
Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi said PM’s plan to travel by road was made at the last minute. “They had put 70,000 chairs (at rally) but only 700 people came. So they made an excuse…” he added
In a day marked by dramatic developments and a war of words between the BJP and the Congress, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday flew back to Delhi from Bathinda after being unable to reach Hussainiwala in Ferozepur district of Punjab, where he was scheduled to pay obeisance at the National Martyrs Memorial and address a rally organised by the state unit of the BJP, after his convoy was stuck en route due to a protest by farmers.
Alleging that the PM faced a security breach, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) later 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. Also in view of the contingency plan Punjab Government has to deploy additional security to secure any movement by road, which were clearly not deployed,” the MHA said in a statement.
The Prime Minister was originally to be flown to Ferozepur by helicopter. After waiting for the inclement weather to clear up, it was decided that he would proceed on road to Hussainiwala, some two hours away. "He proceeded to travel by road after confirmation of necessary security arrangements by the DGP Punjab Police," the Home Ministry said.
When the PM’s convoy reached a flyover in Piarewala village, just 8 km from the rally venue and 30 km from Hussainiwala, it got stranded there for about 15-20 minutes as some protesters had blocked the road ahead by parking vehicles across it.
He was then driven back to Bathinda airport, where, before boarding his aircraft he reportedly told officials, “Apne CM ko thanks kehna ki mein Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paaya (Thank your CM that I was able to return to Bhatinda airport alive).” This comment was attributed to news agency ANI, but was not corroborated either by the PMO or the BJP, leading Congress leaders to question its veracity.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, however, denied any security lapse, and said the PM’s plan to travel by road was made at the last minute. Speaking on a local TV channel, he said, “There has been no security lapse. I had been up late last night overseeing the security arrangements for his rally. The PM’s road plans were made at the last minute, he was earlier supposed to travel by helicopter.”
The chief minister further said, “They had put 70,000 chairs (at the rally) but only 700 people came. So they made the excuse of rain and the other excuse..."
Reacting to the development, founder of Punjab Lok Congress and former Punjab CM Capt. Amarinder Singh demanded imposition of President’s rule in Punjab. “The Punjab CM and Home Minister, who could not provide security to their PM, must resign,” he tweeted.
Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma demanded resignation of CM Charanjit Singh Channi and called the protest a “state-sponsored stir". “BJP workers' buses were also targeted. Police lathicharged our workers who were on the way to the rally," he added.
BJP chief JP Nadda had earlier lashed out at the Chief Minister, alleging that he refused to take phone calls.
"It is sad that PM's visit to launch development projects worth thousands of crores for Punjab was disrupted... State Police was instructed to prevent people from attending the rally...CM Channi refused to get on the phone to either address the matter or solve it," he tweeted.
Punjab minister Rajkumar Verka called the accusations of a security breach baseless. "The truth is that BJP's rally was a flop show. When PM got to know this, he decided to return," said
Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala said the BJP chief should "stop losing cool and all sense of propriety".
“10,000 security personnel were deployed for the PM's Rally. All arrangements were made in tandem with SPG and other agencies. A route was carved even for all buses of BJP workers from Haryana/Rajasthan. PM decided to take a road journey to Hussainiwala. It was not part of his original schedule to travel by road," Surjewala said as he went on to list the reasons for the protests that blocked the PM.
This was to be Modi’s first rally in poll-bound Punjab and he was to lay foundation stones for projects worth over Rs 42,000 crore, including two mega road corridors to enhance accessibility to prominent religious centres and three health institutions.
Later in the day, Channi said, "The farmers have been agitating peacefully for the last one year. I'm not going to lathi-charge at farmers. We spoke to farmers the whole last night after which they ended their agitation. Today, suddenly some agitators gathered in Ferozepur district."
"If there were any security lapses during PM Modi's visit today, then we will conduct an inquiry. There was no danger to the prime minister," he said, adding, "I express regret that PM Modi had to return during his visit to Ferozepur district today. We respect our PM."
Published: 05 Jan 2022, 7:50 PM