Punjab: Narendra Modi aborts Ferozepur visit after his convoy gets stuck on flyover due to protests
The Ministry of Home Affairs called it a major security lapse, and sought a detailed report from the state government.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday had to abort his visit to Punjab’s Ferozepur due to an alleged lapse in his security arrangements, ANI reported, citing a statement from the Union home ministry. Modi’s convoy was stuck on a flyover for over 15 minutes as protestors had blocked the road to Hussainiwala village in Ferozepur district.
The Ministry of Home Affairs said it has sought a detailed report from the state government, and has asked Punjab authorities to take strict action against those responsible for the “security lapse”.
Modi landed in Bathinda on Wednesday morning and was scheduled to travel to Hussainiwala in a helicopter to visit the National Martyrs Memorial.
“Due to rain and poor visibility, PM waited for about 20 minutes for the weather to clear out,” said the home ministry said in its statement.
However, as the weather conditions did not improve, it was decided that Modi would travel via road. The home ministry said that the Punjab director general of police had confirmed that necessary security arrangements had been made for the two-hour journey.
“Around 30 kms away from National Martyrs Memorial in Hussainiwala, when the PM’s convoy reached a flyover, it was found that the road was blocked by some protestors,” said the ministry. “The PM was stuck on a flyover for 15 to 20 minutes. This was a major lapse in the security of PM.”
Modi then headed back to Bathinda airport.
The home ministry said it was the Punjab government’s responsibility to make necessary arrangements for logistics and security. The state government also needed to keep a contingency plan ready, the ministry said.
“…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 ministry added.
No security lapse: Punjab CM
Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, however, denied that the incident was a security lapse.
“PM’s road plans were made at the last minute,” he told a Punjabi television channel, according to The Indian Express. “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.”
At a press briefing, Channi said that no officers would be suspended in view of the incident, reported NDTV.
“The prime minister’s convoy was stopped way before the spot where protesters were sitting,” he said at a press conference. “To lift any protest it takes at least 10-20 mins. The PM was informed about it and also offered a different route but he chose to leave.”
Congress General Secretary Randeep Singh Surjewala also claimed that there was no security lapse, adding that the reason Modi did not go to Ferozepur was because there was no crowd at the event.
However, Punjab Congress Sunil Jakhar did not toe the party line, and said that the incident was not acceptable.
“A secure passage for the prime minister of India to address BJP’s political rally in Ferozpur should have been ensured,” he tweeted. “That’s how democracy works.”
Bharatiya Janata Party President JP Nadda condemned the Punjab government for the incident.
“It is sad that PM’s visit to launch development projects worth thousands of crores for Punjab was disrupted,” he said on Twitter. In a separate tweet, the BJP president alleged that Channi did not take phone calls to resolve the matter.
Union minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat described the alleged security lapse as a “criminal conspiracy” that led to the cancellation of the rally.
“This is a serious threat to the security of the prime minister of the country,” he said. “Whatever leaders, ministers and officers are responsible for this, strict action should be taken against them.”
Former Congress leader Amarinder Singh, who recently formed an alliance with the BJP for the Punjab polls, called for President’s rule in the state, reported PTI.
He also alleged that it was a failure of law and order in the state. “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,” Singh tweeted.
This was the first time in two years that Modi was scheduled to address a rally in Punjab, and his first rally there since the three farm laws were repealed.