Punjab Police on Wednesday hinted that the powerful blast in Maur Mandi town in Bathinda district on Tuesday evening which left five persons dead was due to twin high-intensity IEDs.
The death toll in the car blast went up to five on Wednesday with two more children succumbing to their injuries in a hospital in Ludhiana.
Two men and a child were killed in the explosion on Tuesday evening just as a rally of Congress candidate Harminder Singh Jassi ended at Maur Mandi town, 200 km from here.
“The victims who succumbed to their injuries today were Japsimran Singh (14) and Ritamdeep (9), One girl, Barkha (10), died on Tuesday evening. Other victims included Harpal Singh and Ashok Kumar,” said a police officer said in Maur Mandi.
Ten other injured persons were under treatment in hospitals in Bathinda.
Police officials said, based on preliminary investigations, that the twin IED blasts took place in an abandoned Maruti 800 car and a scooter near Jassi’s rally venue.
Jassi, who is a Congress candidate and a relative of Dera Sacha Sauda sect chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, had passed the blast site just coupler of minutes before the explosion took place. His personal assistant, Harpal Singh, was among the dead.
Police and forensic experts found electronic circuits and a pressure cooker full with sharpnel (nails and other sharp metallic things) from the explosion site.
The car and the scooter were extensively damaged in the blast.
“It has been reported that there were twin ED devices and that the scooter and car used for the attack sported fake numbers and even the numbers of their chassis and engine had been struck off,” said Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal, who also holds charge of the home portfolio.
Within hours of the blast, the political blame game started with Sukhbir Badal, who is also the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal President, blaming the incident on the “Aam Aadmi Party’s alleged nexus with radical elements”.
“We have been asking the Election Commission to take note of the manner in which AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal is consorting with extremist forces. The bomb blast proves that our apprehensions were correct and that radical elements have infiltrated into Punjab in league with AAP,” Badal said in a statement.
He asked the Election Commission to keep a strict watch on radical elements who, he alleged, had become active in the state after a long time.
“It would be best to watch the activities of undesirable elements who have entered the state in the name of canvassing for AAP. These people are being funded to foment trouble in Punjab,” Badal added.
Punjab Congress President Amarinder Singh termed the blast as a “conspiracy against the Congress, which was set for a landslide victory in the assembly polls”.
“The incident has proved my worst fears that armed criminals and goondas had been let loose by the rival political parties in a desperate bid to scuttle the Congress ride to a sweeping win in the elections,” he said.
Demanding further strengthening of security in poll-bound Punjab, Singh said: “The situation is highly volatile. With the entry of AAP-sponsored outsiders, tensions have escalated.”
“The Naxal-Khalistani nexus promoted by Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has transformed the state into a tinder-box waiting to explode,” Singh said, expressing apprehensions of further violence over the next four days, up to the polling on Saturday.
Blaming Sukhbir Badal for the blast, the AAP on Wednesday urged the Election Commission to intervene and get him (Sukhbir) arrested.
While alleging that Sukhbir Badal and the Akali Dal leadership could be behind the blast, AAP General Secretary Sanjay Singh said Badal’s arrest was essential to ensure peaceful assembly elections.
An AAP delegation led by Sanjay Singh met Punjab Chief Electoral Officer V.K. Singh here and sought the panel’s intervention.