The Congress – under fire from the BJP in Punjab over a security breach involving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s convoy – also had to deal with criticism from within, after senior leader Sunil Jakhar took aim at the party in a no-holds-barred tweet.
Mr Jakhar, the party’s former state unit chief, said the incident was “just not acceptable” and said the state government “should have ensured” the Prime Minister was able to address his rally.
“What has happened today is just not acceptable. It’s against Panjabiyat. A secure passage for the Prime Minister of India to address the BJP’s political rally in Ferozpur should have been ensured.”
“That’s how democracy works,” Mr Jakhar tweeted.
What has happened today is just not acceptable. It’s against Panjabiyat.
A secure passage for the Prime Minister of India to address BJP’s political rally in Ferozpur should have been ensured. That’s how democracy works.
— Sunil Jakhar (@sunilkjakhar) January 5, 2022
This is far from the first time Mr Jakhar has hit out at his own party; in October he sneered after Punjab Congress seemed to miss marking former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s death anniversary.
And just days before that he posted a cryptic tweet as Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, whose Aam Aadmi Party is tipped to spring a surprise in Punjab, visited the state.
“Must say, at least one of them has got his timing right,” he said, in apparent reference to Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Channi, who was in Delhi at that time.
Earlier today the Prime Minister cancelled his events in poll-bound Punjab after he was stuck on a flyover for around 20 minutes because of protesters. Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, on stage at the event, told the crowd the PM had cancelled “due to some reasons”.
The Prime Minister, it turned out, was forced to return to the airport in Bathinda because of the breach, the Home Ministry said in a statement blaming the state’s Congress government.
Calling it the “single biggest lapse in the security of any Indian Prime Minister in recent years”, government sources accused Punjab Police of “conniving” with the ‘protesters’.
Only the police knew the PM’s exact route, the sources said.
The Congress, however, asked why the PM’s security team allowed the last-minute route change.
With elections due in two months, the incident has sparked a furious row between the two parties.
Union Minister Smriti Irani has accused the Congress of wanting to harm the Prime Minister, and BJP chief JP slammed accused Chief Minister Channi of refusing to take phone calls.
Randeep Surjewala hit back for the Congress, asking the BJP chief to “stop losing cool and all sense of propriety”. He also questioned the role of the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) – which is in charge of the PM’s security – asking how and why a last-minute change of route was allowed.