Prime Minister Narendra Modi was forced to turn back from Ferozepur on a rainy Wednesday after his vehicle cavalcade was met with protesting farmers who blocked various points on the highway. The PM was en route to lay the foundation stone for several projects here.
Modi was on his way to the National Martyrs Memorial at Hussainiwala from Bathinda when the incident occurred. The cavalcade remained stuck on a flyover for 15-20 minutes due to the blockade, an incident the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has described as a "major lapse" in his security. It is reported that Modi’s convoy is now on its way to Bathinda's Bhaisiana Airforce station, from where he would soon leave for Delhi.
The prime minister was visiting Punjab after a gap of two years.
Speaking over the phone to NewsClick, Surjeet Singh Phul, Punjab chief of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Krantikari) said, “Officially, they are saying Modi returned because of bad weather and security lapse. The reality is that farmers from district level units of various unions like BKU Sidhupur, Ugrahan, Krantikari were waving black flags at his convoy and blocking roads. Even his pandal had barely 500 people. Now would a country’s prime minister address just 500 people? Out of shame, he turned back to Delhi.”
Phul added that “The PM might be sensitive to rainy weather, but farmers spend their entire lives in isolation and bad weather to save their crops. Therefore, they did not mind coming out today to protest his visit.”
Journalist Mandeep Punia claimed on Twitter that except for BJP leaders and workers, the rally was completely empty as farmers had blocked all roads leading to it for the last 12 hours.
A disturbed MHA has asked the Punjab government to fix responsibility for the lapse and take strict action, while also seeking a detailed report regarding the incident. “The PM’s schedule and travel plan was communicated well in advance to Punjab Government. As per procedure, they have to make necessary arrangements for logistics, security as well as keep a contingency plan ready. Also in view of the contingency plan Punjab Government has to deploy additional security to secure any movement by road, which were clearly not deployed,” the MHA said in a statement.
Reacting to this, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi hit back, saying that “There was no security lapse. PM’s road plans were made at the last minute. He was supposed to go by helicopter. I was up late at night overseeing security arrangements for his rally. 70,000 chairs were put up for rally but only 700 people turned up.”
Just hours ahead of his visit, Modi tweeted, “I look forward to being among my sisters and brothers of Punjab today. At a programme in Ferozepur, the foundation stone of development works worth Rs 42,750 crore would be laid, which will improve the quality of life for the people.”
Meanwhile, BJP has accused the Punjab police of stopping buses taking party workers to the rally that the Prime Minister was to address.
With inputs from PTI.