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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

PM security is above party politics. The breach should be urgently probed and accountability fixed

🔴 Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi must act against those who failed to do job. It is in the BJP’s own interests that it reins in the rhetoric and pulls its punches.

By: Editorial |
Updated: January 7, 2022 9:39:33 am
While the Punjab government has announced a high-powered probe, CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s attempts to paper over the lapse are ill-judged.

The security breach in Punjab, which saw the Prime Minister’s cavalcade stranded on a flyover, and subsequently led to the cancellation of the PM’s scheduled programmes in Ferozepur, must be urgently probed and accountability fixed. That it should have happened in spite of the elaborate and multi-layered protocols involving central agencies, the Special Protection Group, and state police forces that protect the PM’s movement, only underlines its gravity. While the Punjab government has announced a high-powered probe, and set a deadline of three days, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s attempts to paper over the lapse are ill-judged, even counter-productive. To say that the PM wasn’t attacked, and so why the flutter, ill behoves the position he holds. To say that the state didn’t want to crack down on protesters is specious. It only serves to draw unflattering attention to a police force whose top appointment has recently been at the centre of an embarrassing political tussle between the state Congress chief and Channi himself — in December, after prolonged threat-making by Navjot Singh Sidhu, his chosen candidate was made the officiating DGP, replacing the officer seen to be backed by the CM. That episode may have nothing to do with this one. But it should bring home to CM Channi the need in this moment for repair and correction, and warn against the dangers of politicisation of a matter that must not be viewed opportunistically or through a partisan lens.

The aftermath of the breach also needs to be examined carefully. It is disturbing that BJP ministers and leaders, from Union Home Minister Amit Shah to party spokespersons, have sought to paint the lapse in Punjab as a conspiracy by the elected government in the state — to deliberately endanger the PM, “so that the PM could be brought to harm”. This refrain speaks of a terrible breakdown of trust between the Centre and the state, between the BJP and the Congress, that is corrosive in a federal multiparty democracy. Ahead of a crucial assembly election in Punjab, it is also a grim portent. A heightened level of contentiousness and even cantankerousness is to be expected among the main political players in the state that has just seen a prolonged farmers’ agitation come to an end after the Centre’s repeal of the farm laws. It is also true that, in Punjab, political parties across the spectrum are striking exaggerated postures in order to get back into the game. But the allegations in the wake of the security lapse by senior politicians cross the line of mutual respect, and deepen the trust deficit.

It is in the BJP’s own interests that it reins in the rhetoric and pulls its punches. It can ill afford to strengthen the impression that it is cynically tarring as unsafe-for-PM a whole state, in which a farmers’ movement has just scored a major victory over the Centre, and where the party is seen to have relatively fewer electoral stakes. But first, the Channi government must ensure that accountability is visibly fixed for the security lapse on Wednesday. It needs to act against its officers who failed to do their job to secure the Prime Minister’s route.

This editorial first appeared in the print edition on January 7, 2022 under the title ‘Special Protection’.

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