“Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki mein Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paaya” said PM Modi after the shocking security breach at Punjab when his convoy was stuck. In many ways, the quote would go down in history stigmatizing the reputation of Punjab Police and security establishment while also inflicting a heavy political cost to Congress party. The Congress party over the past decade has slowly receded towards oblivion and the inept manner of handling the PM’s security by Chief Minister Channi will only fast-forward the tragic end.
The security of Prime Minister is paramount for ensuring stability and continuity in any country. Consequently, every nation have institutions, systems and elaborate standard-operating procedures(SOPs) to ensure foolproof security cover to elected heads of state. India ever since Independence had measures protecting the VIP’s which was upgraded from time to time with new technological prowess and international best-practices. After the tragic assassination of sitting PM Indira Gandhi, the security establishment was revitalized with the introduction of SPG
Act in 1988 and amendment introduced in 2019. Tragically, India lost another Prime Minister when Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not just a Prime Minister but also the most popular politician over last 3 decades who single-handedly delivered a majority for BJP. The immense national popularity in India makes him a prime target for anti-national elements and terrorists operating globally. In terms of threat perception, PM Modi ranks much higher than earlier Prime Minister’s who occupied the office. The rulebook prescribed by the security establishment needed to be followed steadfastly keeping in view the seriousness of the case and the importance of the VIP. Instead what we saw in Punjab was outright dereliction of duty, complete collapse of protocols and norms, disrespect of Constitutional authority and probably even a sinister conspiracy.
The Chief Minister, Chief Secretary and DGP weren’t present to receive the PM as is customary. The Prime Minister had to drive down to Hussainiwala- a distance of 110 kilometers because helicopter flight was not possible due to inclement weather. The prime minister barely covered 30 kms when the shocking event transpired – an inexplicable presence of busloads of agitators brazenly obstructing the PM’s convoy. Never before in the history of India has such a shocking lapse of security occurred wherein the PM had to wait 20 minutes. Except for the close-proximity
security which is responsibility of SPG, the outer security, perimeter security traffic, firefighting arrangements and armed reserve forces are the responsibility of local police and administration. In the Punjab incident, nobody except the close proximity security seems to be in place pointing to clear case of a conspiracy considering the claim that 10000 police personnel were on duty. There are multiple questions which needs answers which goes beyond the complete incompetence of Punjab Chief Minister Channi or a suspension of few local police officers.
Firstly and most alarmingly – how did the protestors unexpectedly land up in the precise route where PM’s convoy is passing? Who gave them the information? The route of a VIP like Prime Minister is repeatedly surveyed and sanitized and alternative arrangements are in place in case there are last minute hiccups or unpredictable factors like weather conditions. Why did the Punjab police not intimate the convoy about the presence of protestors beforehand and clear the route? Was it a deliberate attempt and if Yes, at whose behest did the police force refuse to act? Punjab police over the past few decades have a terrific reputation of commitment and professionalism. Unless there is a conspiracy in which those at the highest level are acting in cahoots, such an incident seems implausible.
The security of Prime Minister is much more than a political issue. The seat of Prime Ministership is an institution which is held sacrosanct for its role in leading the nation. The security of any constitutionally elected authority like Prime Minister or Chief Minister should not be viewed with the narrow prism of political interests. Political parties across the country have collectively raised their voice realizing the harm to the nation which security breach of such enormous proportion can cause. Media reports citing Sonia Gandhi’s belated actions and CM Channi’s recent
statements suggest that Congress leaders are slowly realizing the heavy political fallout of the incident.
The Government of India has already initiated a thorough enquiry into the incident. While it’s too premature to conclude, a possibility of conspiracy cannot be ruled out. While the people of India would definitely punish the incompetent Congress, the incompetence of police establishment should be dealt heavily so that such incidents aren’t repeated. Whether the incident is a handiwork of invisible hands who are working closely with terrorist forces needs be examined thoroughly as it’s a breach at multiple levels. The people of Punjab have witnessed the sorry state of affairs in terms of absence of governance over last few months and complete incompetence in case of this specific incident. They will express themselves through their vote in upcoming Assembly elections. Congress can bid good bye to one more state.
The author is a well known writer and political analyst. His upcoming book in Marathi, ‘Asatyameva Jayate’, that speaks of obfuscation in India’s historiography is already being discussed in literary circles.