Chandigarh: The grant of Z-Plus security by the Haryana government to Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, a self-styled godman convicted of rape and murder, has once again brought to the fore the rift between Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and state Home Minister Anil Vij.
The two leaders, who have been known to have differences but claim to have a cordial relationship, have made contradictory statements to the media on the grant of security to Singh, who is imprisoned at Sonaria jail in Rohtak but is currently out on furlough.
Khattar had told the media in Panchkula Wednesday that the decision to grant Z-Plus security was made after assessing the threat to Singh’s life.
“It is the duty of the government to provide security to any prisoner or outsider. Gurmeet Ram Rahim is out on furlough and on the basis of some inputs, he has been given Z-Plus security,” the CM said.
On the same day, Vij had told reporters at another event that “he had nothing to do with the grant of security to the Dera chief” and that he “had no information of it, nor had any file come to him on threat to Singh”.
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The grant of Z-Plus security to Singh during his 21-day release on furlough — which began 7 February — has raised eyebrows as he has been convicted of two rapes and as many murders.
Also, Haryana jail authorities permitted the Dera chief to come out of jail just ahead of the Punjab assembly elections on 20 February.
The move led to widespread allegations that Singh had been released temporarily so that he could direct his followers to vote for the BJP-PLC-SAD (Sanyukt) combine in the state, which is currently governed by the Congress.
The Dera Sacha Sauda has a huge following in Punjab and is believed to have a hold on thousands of voters in the Malwa belt. Khattar has denied any link between Singh’s furlough and the Punjab polls, saying it is a coincidence.
Punjab voted Sunday. The fact that the Dera chief was granted Z-Plus security was announced Wednesday. The decision has been attributed to an “input from the Haryana CID department that he faced a threat to his life” from Sikh extremists.
Khattar holds charge of the Haryana Police CID, while Vij commands the rest of the police force.
The fact that the home ministry was not consulted while granting security to the controversial Dera chief has once again brought up the differences between the CM and home minister over control of the CID.
Tussle over Haryana Police CID
In January 2020, barely two months into his second tenure as Haryana CM, Khattar had taken control of the Haryana Police CID, which otherwise comes under the home department.
Vij, who had been given the home portfolio, objected to the move by Khattar and saw it as a truncating of his powers.
Khattar and Vij then indulged in a public war of words over the issue, with suggestions that the matter be taken to the cabinet for a final call. Khattar, however, put his foot down and declared his decision final in the matter.
In the case of Dera chief Singh, while Vij has denied that the file regarding grant of security ever came to him, he has not made any public statement objecting to Khattar’s move.
Vij has earlier been a staunch supporter of Singh and had stoked a controversy when he donated Rs 50 lakh to the Dera for sports as sports minister in 2016.
On Thursday, both Khattar and Vij tried to play down their differences in front of the media.
At a joint press conference in Chandigarh to launch a drug de-addiction drive, they were at pains to explain that all was well between them.
“We both may have a difference of opinion but we both have the same motive — to develop Haryana and to work for the betterment of every Haryanvi,” said Vij, when he and the CM were asked about their differences.
Khattar said he had known Vij since 1990, and had played a crucial role when Vij contested his first election from Ambala. “We talk to one another every day. We also meet each other quite often and there are no differences,” the CM insisted.
(Edited by Nida Fatima Siddiqui)
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