Updated: January 6, 2022 1:47:30 am
With the Punjab police caught napping and the Centre seeking a report from the state on the security breach that allowed protesters to block Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cavalcade, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi said there was “no threat” to the life of the Prime Minister.
He claimed that the Punjab DGP had advised the Centre to defer the PM’s scheduled rally given the inclement weather and the agitation by farmers.
Stating he regretted whatever had happened and the fact that the Prime Minister had to return, Channi blamed the incident on what he called a last-minute change in the PM’s travel plans.
He told the press that the Prime Minister’s Office had been informed beforehand about the protest on the route. He suggested that Modi could have used a helicopter instead.
“The Prime Minister was not attacked… Please do not spoil relations… Farmers have been agitating for over a year. I am not going to order a lathicharge or firing on my people… If there was any security lapse, we will inquire,” he said.
“When farmers sat (on a protest) in Delhi for a year, was there any threat to the PM or the CM or anyone? We had cleared the roads last night. But they came back,” he said.
The security drill
Arrangements for the PM’s security are made well in advance. Every detail is chalked out through Advance Security Liaison Meetings involving top officers of SPG, state police and IB. Even in a contingency, the PM moves only after state police gives route clearance.
On whether any action was being taken against police officers responsible for security of the route, Channi said: “The police role was limited. Everything was being decided by SPG, Central agencies. It was their joint decision.”
“I do not wish to do politics on this. I do not want to say that the rally (that PM was to address) had thin attendance. I do not want to say that they had arranged 70,000 chairs and only 700 people occupied those. I do not want to say that the agitators had BJP flags. I am just saying that it was an agitation,” he said.
According to Channi, the Chief Secretary informed him at 1.30 am that the protesters wanted an assurance on a meeting with the Prime Minister. The CM said he offered to facilitate such a meeting.
“Then at 1.45 am, I called the Director of the Intelligence Bureau. He did not answer. At 6.30 am, he called back. I told him that we had got the roads cleared.”
He said the DGP told the Centre that the Prime Minister should defer his visit in view of the bad weather and the farmer protest.
He said as per the programme provided to the state government, Modi was slated to arrive on an Mi-17 helicopter and land at a helipad in Ferozepur at 11.05 am .
“This was the programme we were conveyed. There was no plan, as conveyed to us, that he would take the road. It was done at the last minute. On the way, we learnt that agitators had assembled on the route. We informed the PMO immediately. There was no security lapse. Whenever there is an election in any state, such agitations take place. There was no breach,” he said.
Channi denied receiving any call from BJP president J P Nadda but said Union Home Minister Amit Shah had called him. “I told him we should choose an alternate route. But he said the PM had decided to cancel his rally and return,” he said.
To a question on the PM reportedly telling officials to thank the CM that he managed to reach Bathinda airport alive, Channi said he and his Cabinet would not let any harm come to the PM.
“PM is older than me, his stature is much bigger than mine. If he has said anything to me because he is upset, I do not wish to say anything to him. I will say ‘Khushamdeed, please come again’,” he said.
Later, state Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal told the Cabinet that a livid Prime Minister asked him to thank Channi for what he had to undergo.
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