Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after a major security breach in Punjab today, was quoted by news agency ANI as telling airport officials they should “thank their Chief Minister” that he made it alive to the airport.
The Congress questioned whether he really said it, wondering why the comment had not been confirmed either by the BJP or Prime Minister’s Office.
PM Modi was stuck on a highway in Bathinda for around 20 minutes this afternoon because of protesting farmers. He returned to the airport without attending a mega rally in Ferozepur to campaign for the Punjab election.
According to ANI, PM Modi told Bhatinda airport officials: “Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki mein Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paaya (Thank your Chief Minister that I could make it alive to the Bathinda airport).”
Officials at Bhatinda Airport tell ANI that PM Modi on his return to Bhatinda airport told officials there,“Apne CM ko thanks kehna, ki mein Bhatinda airport tak zinda laut paaya.” pic.twitter.com/GLBAhBhgL6
— ANI (@ANI) January 5, 2022
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala was among those who raised doubts.
“Why is the PMO, BJP ministers or PM not saying this? Was the PM’s convoy attacked? Was there any Naxalite or terrorist there,” Mr Surjewala questioned.
PM Modi was to be flown by chopper to a rally in Ferozepur. Due to bad weather, he decided to travel by road but just 10 km from the site, his convoy was blocked by protesters.
The Punjab Police was told about the change of plans, the Union Home Ministry said in a statement.
Calling it an unprecedented breach of any Prime Minister’s security, the BJP accused the Congress of endangering PM Modi.
The home ministry has sought a detailed report from the Punjab government in the middle of a snowballing political slugfest.
“The Congress’ attempt to harm the Prime Minister failed,” said the BJP’s Smriti Irani.
BJP chief JP Nadda lashed out at Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi in a series of tweets and accused him of refusing to take phone calls.
“It is sad that PM’s visit to launch development projects worth thousands of crores for Punjab was disrupted… State Police was instructed to prevent people from attending the rally…CM (Chief Minister) Channi refused to get on phone to either address the matter or solve it,” Mr Nadda tweeted.
The Congress, however, questioned the sudden change in the PM’s plans.
Mr Channi denied any security breach and expressed regret that PM Modi had to turn back. “I would give my life to protect the PM, but he was in no danger. There was no security breach,” he told reporters.