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CM Channi expresses ‘regret & pain’, insists PM security wasn’t breached as blame game begins

PM Modi was stranded on a flyover for 15-20 mins and had to cancel visit to Ferozepur after protesters blocked road. BJP called it 'construct' of Congress govt in Punjab.

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Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi expressed “regret and pain” at the cancellation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled visit to Ferozepur Wednesday, but he maintained that there had been no security lapse on the part of his government, and nothing that could have jeopardised the PM’s safety.

“There was no security breach… He was not attacked, nor was there any planning by anyone to do so. His safety was not compromised in any manner. I have great respect for the prime minister,” Channi said, addressing a press conference in Chandigarh.

The CM’s comments followed an attack on the Punjab government by the BJP, for what it alleged was a “constructed scenario” to bring harm to the country’s prime minister.

Modi was scheduled to visit Ferozepur to lay the foundation stones for several development projects and address the public. The visit was cancelled, however, after protesting farmers blocked the road leading to the city. The Ministry of Home Affairs had said in a statement that it was a major security breach that the PM was left stuck on a flyover “for 15-20 minutes”.

The MHA had also sought a report from the Punjab government. According to the MHA, the schedule for the PM’s visit had been communicated to the Punjab government well in advance, but additional security to ensure his smooth movement by road was “clearly not deployed”.

‘All arrangement finalised by PM’s team’

“Before any harm ever comes to the prime minister of the country, I would take it on my  blood,” Channi told the media Wednesday evening.

The CM said the top security agencies of the country attached to the PM and his office were in the loop and informed about the security arrangements for the visit.

“I talked to the IB director this morning and apprised him that the protesters had agreed to clear the roads. The entire arrangement of the PM’s visit, including how he will travel, were finalised by his team in Delhi,” said Channi.

When asked whether one of the reasons for the Prime Minister cancelling the Ferozepur visit was low turnout, Channi said he did not want to enter into any politics on the matter.

However, in an interview to a television channel earlier, the Congress leader had said the BJP had arranged 70,000 seats for the Ferozepur event, while the attendance was not more than 700. “Rain and some other excuses are being put forth,” he had said.

Channi’s press conference came within hours of news agency ANI quoting unnamed Punjab government officials as saying that PM Modi, on his return to Bathinda airport, had told officials there (sarcastically) to thank the CM for being able to return to the airport alive.

“I was to personally receive the PM at the airport at Bathinda and then accompany him in the chopper to Ferozepur, where we were supposed to have a meeting, after which he was to address a political rally,” Channi told the press.

“However, since two close aides of mine were detected to be Covid positive, we informed the prime minister’s team in Delhi, who advised me that it was best that I stay away and attend the meeting virtually. Why should I not want the prime minister to come to Punjab? I have a whole list of demands which I wanted to make before him. As prime minister, he would have only given something to Punjab.”

“Some BJP leaders are holding press conferences and saying that there was a security breach which is not the case,” he insisted.

Also read: What led to PM security breach? Experts say ‘lack of preparedness or agencies’ miscommunication’

‘Tricks to keep PM away’, ‘stop blame game’

BJP leaders in Delhi, meanwhile, mounted an attack on the Congress government in Punjab for Wednesday’s incident.

In a press conference held in Delhi, Union Minister Smriti Irani said: “Planted political instruments today were given political patronage by the Congress government in Punjab to breach the security of the Prime Minister of India. Never before in the history of this country has a state government knowingly constructed a scenario where the Prime Minister of the country will be brought to harm.”

BJP national president J.P. Nadda too tweeted about the incident.

“Fearing a resounding defeat at the hands of the electorate, the Congress Government in Punjab tried all possible tricks to scuttle the PM @narendramodi Ji’s programmes in the state,” said Nadda.

“What is extremely worrisome is that this incident was also a big security lapse as far as the PM is concerned… To make matters worse, CM Channi refused to get on the phone to either address the matter or solve it.”

Replying to Nadda, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala tweeted that all possible preparations had been made for the PM’s security and pointed out that there had been a last minute change in Modi’s travel plan — the PM was earlier to have travelled to Ferozepur by air, but had to change his plans because of poor weather conditions. Referring to the protesting farmers, Surjewala added, “Stop blame game & introspect on BJP’s anti-farmer attitude”.

Congress MP from Ludhiana Ravneet Singh Bittu said God had shown the prime minister and BJP workers a “small trailer” of what the farmers went through during their prolonged protest against the now-repealed farm laws.

The only discordant note within the party was struck by former state Congress chief and in -charge of the party’s poll campaign committee for the assembly elections, Sunil Jakhar, who tweeted, “What has happened today is just not acceptable. It’s against Panjabiyat.”

Parminder Singh Pinky, the Congress MLA from Ferozepur, told a TV channel that the fault, if any, is of the Punjab DGP who did not camp in the district where the PM was supposed to visit. “There is talk going on about suspending the SSP or some other police officer of the district, while the responsibility lies squarely with the DGP,” he said.

Reaction of other parties

Former deputy CM and Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal also termed Wednesday’s incident a major security breach, blaming the Channi government for a law and order collapse in the state.

His words were echoed by former CM Captain Amarinder Singh, who tweeted, “When you cannot provide smooth passage to the prime minister of the country and that too just 10km from the Pakistan border, you have no right to stay in office and should quit!”

Amarinder has recently floated his own party after leaving the Congress, and entered into an alliance with the BJP for the upcoming state assembly elections.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: Congress election rallies ‘on hold’ as party assesses Covid situation amid criticism



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