How Congress role in Bhatinda security scare for PM Modi is unplugged

The people of India will never forgive the withered and jaded Congress party for doing what it did on 5 January 2022

A Supreme Court committee, which enquired into a security lapse after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy stuck on a flyover in Punjab on 5 January 2022 blamed the Ferozepur SSP saying he failed to discharge his duty to maintain law and order.

“He failed to do this even though sufficient force was available and even though he was informed two hours before, that the Prime Minister will enter that route,” said the CJI after perusing the report of the committee which was headed by a former apex court judge, Justice Indu Malhotra.

The court said it would forward the report to the Centre for appropriate action. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, for the Centre, had contended during the hearing of the case that there had been a “complete intelligence failure” on the part of the Punjab government particularly the erstwhile Charanjit Singh Channi-led dispensation of the Congress.

While the court may have only indicted the Ferozepur SSP, the fact of the matter is, the SSP in this case was supposed to have been directly reporting to the chief minister at that time, Channi, in this case. All preparations and protocol-related matters pertaining to the prime minister’s visit were directly supervised by the then chief minister (Channi), with the SSP being just a small cog in the wheel. That being the case, there can be no doubt about the fact that the erstwhile Congress regime under Channi failed to contain a massive security lapse, which could have escalated into something far more serious.

The terminal decline of the Congress is not limited only to debilitating electoral debacles in the last seven years, but the downhill journey is more about the ethical lapse within the party. Only a party that has no political propriety will choose to wilfully undermine the office of a democratically elected prime minister and worse still, will make brazen attempts to justify in the most cavalier manner, an attempt to compromise the security of the prime minister.

Let us get straight to the moot issue at hand here. The prime minister’s itinerary and the minutest security details are very meticulously discussed, finalised and documented by the Central agencies in close coordination with the SPG. The entire exercise involves Central and state agencies. In a “major security lapse”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy was stranded on a Bhatinda flyover, en route to Hussainiwala in Ferozepur district due to a blockade by protesters on 5 January 2022. The incident forced the prime minister to cancel his rally and other development oriented projects of over Rs 42,000 crore that were to be flagged off in poll-bound Punjab. While words like security lapse and security breach were repeatedly used by various stakeholders, post the 5 January incident, the hard truth is, the SPG is only responsible as per the Blue Book, for proximate security, which basically means the immediate cordon around the prime minister.

The SPG elite commando force forms the innermost security cordon around the prime minister wherever he goes, but even the perimeter of that cordon is decided by the respective state government when the prime minister visits any given state. While the SPG has the responsibility for the prime minister’s security, given that the perimeter routes and the areas which the prime minister visits are secured by the concerned state police, it is clear that then chief minister Channi, his entire state machinery and the DGP of Punjab, failed miserably in performing their duties. What made it even worse was Channi’s callous attitude, post the security sabotage. Why did then chief minister Channi and the Congress fail to take ownership of the massive security failure surrounding the prime minister?

That the prime minister’s security was not merely breached in this case, but that there was a sabotage bordering on criminal conspiracy, is evident from the fact that within less than 100 meters of the buffer zone, a large group of protesters had gathered. Who allowed these miscreants and vandals from BKU (Krantikari), which had been banned in 2014 for having links with Maoists, to gather there, near the buffer zone, right on the eve of prine minister’s convoy, that was scheduled to pass through that particular area? Who leaked the itinerary of the prime minister? If it takes between 45 minutes to an hour to mobilise protesters, as is being suggested by various police officials, how is it that for an hour when these protesters were being mobilised, the Punjab Police, was unaware? Why did the DGP give wrong inputs to the SPG that the area from which prime minister’s convoy was slated to pass through, had been properly sanitized? Did the senior officials of Punjab Police not see the crowd of vandals that had gathered near the Bhatinda flyover, before blatantly lying to the SPG that the said area was safe?

Why did then chief minister Channi not respond to umpteen efforts that were made via telephone calls and otherwise, post the dangerous and shameful security breach? Finally, the buck stops at the doorstep of the chief minister, in matters pertaining to law and order in that given state, as per the 7th Schedule of the Constitution. What kept the then chief minister Channi so busy, that he chose to wilfully and deliberately not respond to phone calls, from the PMO? How can the chief minister of a state blatantly and deliberately not respond to phone calls, in matters pertaining to security of the highest elected office of the land, the Office of the Prime Minister, in this case?\

The PMO is an institution in itself and this was not just about the Prime Minister’s security alone. By putting to risk the prime minister, why did Channi choose to risk the security of the entire nation? A prime minister eventually represents the popular will of the entire nation via a democratic process. On whose behest did Channi, put in harm’s way, the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, in this case? How is it that each time Rahul Gandhi vanishes and goes abroad, some or the other untoward incident happens in India? Was there a Pakistani or Khalistani element in this conspiracy to sabotage the prime minister’s security? Why did Rahul Gandhi not offer sympathy or empathy which is what a mature Opposition leader is expected to do, post such a massive security lapse, in a state where the Congress was in power? But then, maturity is anathema to Rahul Gandhi and he has shown his political immaturity bordering on the vile, on more than one occasion.

Right from the word go,Channi flouted every rule in the rulebook. Why did Channi,the Punjab DGP or Punjab’s Chief Secretary who directly reported into then CM Channi,not receive Prime Minister Modi at the Airport? Channi’s lame excuse that he had been in close contact with a Covid positive person and hence he avoided receiving the PM,was a snarky lie.If COVID protocol is indeed something Channi was so worried about,why did he address an over 30 minute long press conference,without even wearing a mask,the very same day? If COVID protocol weighed on Channi’s mind,why was he hobnobbing with reporters from a media-house,within less than 24 hours of the “security breach”? Barely 14 days prior to the PM’s visit on Jan 5, 2022,there was a powerful bomb blast within the premises of the Ludhiana Court.

Given that then chief minister Channi was well aware of the hostile scenario prevalent in and around Ferozepur, why did Channi not ensure stringent security? Security apparatus should have, in fact, been doubled up on a war footing ahead of the prime minister’s visit. Instead, the prime minister’s safety, security and stature were shamefully compromised by the former Chief Minister of Punjab, in a glaring reminder of how the Congress party is driven by nothing but visceral hate for Prime Minister Modi.This visceral angst and animosity for Modi is driven by the Congress Party’s growing political irrelevance and dwindling political fortunes,given the resounding defeats that the Congress faced both in the Lok Sabha 2014 and 2019 elections.

How prime minister’s security is planned? An Advanced Security Liaison (ASL) is carried out by the SPG which requires maintaining every minute detail of the prime minister’s itinerary. This exercise involves officials of the Intelligence Bureau in the concerned state, DGP and other police officials and the district magistrate of the concerned district. Whenever the prime minister visits a state, the local police maintain this minute-to-minute programme under the complete supervision and knowledge of the concerned chief minister of the concerned state. Hence for Channi (then, the chief minister), to feign ignorance about prime minister’s itinerary and any change in plans thereof, smacks of his incompetence and devious sense of entitlement, bordering on recklessness.

As part of the ASL, the entire route of the prime minister’s entourage and the venue is supposed to be completely sanitized by the state police force and clearance is issued by the head of state DGP, who also gives necessary inputs to the SPG. Other safety measures by the state police, entail anti-sabotage checks, frisking of people who would be allowed to sit in close proximity to the prime minister and related measures. Clearly, the Punjab DGP, his team and ex-chief minister Channi, failed woefully on all these counts.

Broad guidelines have been laid down in what is referred to as the SPG’s Blue Book. Three days before any planned visit, the SPG officials carry out a mandatory ASL with everyone involved in securing the event. Once the prime minister’s itinerary is discussed and an ASL report is prepared, all security arrangements are made by the concerned state, keeping the SPG informed. According to the laid down rules, an alternative arrangement during a VVIP’s visit has to be ensured. The internal memos written by ADG law and order, Punjab, to senior state police officials on the 1, 2 and 4 of January 2022, clearly show that a contingency plan had been made in case the prime minister chose to travel not by helicopter, but by road. Why then did Channi lie that there was no alternative contingency plan and that the security lapse happened, as the prime minister had not informed about a change in his plan?

To sum up, the entire security sabotage, due to rain and poor visibility, the prime minister waited for about 20 minutes for the weather to clear out. When the weather did not improve, it was decided that he would visit the National Martyrs Memorial via road, which would take more than two hours. He proceeded to travel by road after necessary confirmation of necessary security arrangements by the Punjab Police DGP.

Around 30 kilometres away from the National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala, when the prime minister’s convoy reached a flyover, it was found that the road was blocked by some protestors. The prime minister was stuck on a flyover for 15-20 minutes. This was a major lapse in the security of the prime minister as anything could have happened in those crucial 20 minutes.

Undoubtedly, the people of India will never forgive the withered and jaded Congress party for doing what it did on 5 January 2022. As if the security sabotage was not embarrassing enough, Channi was completely clueless and unwilling to answer why only a lame FIR under Section 283 of the IPC, which only entails a measly fine of Rs 200, was filed ?Is Prime Minister Modi’s life worth only Rs 200? Why did it take the police two full days to file the FIR? Why did the police reach the venue of the security sabotage after the prime minister had left? Should the police not have been there much earlier to ensure the vandals were nabbed?

If Channi claims that 10,000 policemen were deployed at the said place where the security sabotage occurred, how is it that these 10,000 policemen had no inkling of who these 150 people were against whom an FIR was eventually filed? Was it not the job of the police to find out identities of these 150 supposedly “unknown” men? If these men were indeed unknown, why were Punjab Police officials seen chatting, merrymaking and sipping tea with these vandals, all of which was evident on camera? Does that imply that this murderous mob of 150 “unknown” people was in collusion with the Punjab Police?

No discussion on the consistent, albeit failed attempts to sabotage and subvert democracy by the Congress establishment will be complete without discussing the myriad, mysterious deaths of top politicians over the decades that show the Congress in very poor light. Be it Syama Prasad Mukherjee’s mysterious death under detention in 1953, the death of former Punjab chief Minister, Partap Singh Kairon in 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri’s demise in 1966, a day after he signed the Tashkent agreement, the death of LN Mishra who was railways minister under Indira Gandhi in 1975,or for that matter the mysterious death of Congress leader Madhavrao Scindia in a chopper crash near Mainpuri  in 2001, the Congress party has a lot to explain and account for.

Coming back to Punjab, while Prime Minister Narendra Modi showed immense grace and displayed exemplary dignity in the face of grave provocation and challenging circumstances, the Congress has dug its own grave by mocking democratic institutions. The Sikhs are a highly patriotic bunch of people whose valiant sacrifices are not lost on anyone. The anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984 till date, remains one of the most horrific legacies of the Congress party.

Another 1984 moment was deftly averted on 5 January, 2022 only due to the political wisdom, sagacity and far sightedness of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has shown in more ways than one, that restraint at times, speaks far louder than reaction. Be it bringing back three copies of the Guru Granth Sahib in a special flight from Kabul to New Delhi in August 2021 or announcing the decision to repeal farm laws on 19 November, 2021 on the day of Guru Nanak Jayanti (Gupurab), Prime Minister Modi’s love for Sikh traditions and culture, are amply evident.

As for the Congress, what it has failed to win by the ballot post 2014, it seeks to win by the bullet, forgetting that the New India under Modi is resilient, unputdownable and unwilling to be bullied by a family that has outlived its utility in Indian politics. Dynasties are passe!Period.

The writer is an Economist, National Spokesperson of the BJP and the bestselling author of ‘The Modi Gambit’. Views are personal.

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