New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday set up a three-member panel to investigate the security breach that stalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Punjab trip, an announcement made hours after a minister indicated that some “big and tough decisions” were being taken by the Union Home Ministry.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi briefed President Ram Nath Kovind on the security breach even as Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi claimed that the “theatrics” related to Wednesday’s incident was aimed at imposing President’s Rule on Punjab.
The matter also came up before the Supreme Court.
Earlier in the day, the Punjab government announced its own two-member panel to investigate “lapses”. It has been asked to submit its report in three days.
From Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, political leaders sparred over the issue.
BJP leaders offered prayers at temples in different parts of the country for a long life for the PM. They also posted their wishes and prayers for Modi on Twitter, using the hashtag ”LongLivePMModi”.
Punjab BJP leader met Governor Banwarilal Purohit in Chandigarh, seeking the dismissal of the state’s home minister and its police chief.
The committee announced by the Union Home Ministry will inquire into ”serious lapses” in security arrangements which exposed the VVIP to “grave risk”.
The panel will be led by Sudhir Kumar Saxena, Secretary (Security) in the Cabinet Secretariat. Its other members are Intelligence Bureau joint director Balbir Singh and Special Protection Group IG S Suresh.
In what the Centre described as a ”major security lapse”, Modi’s convoy was stranded Wednesday for 20 minutes on a flyover due to a blockade by farm protesters in Ferozepur.
He returned from poll-bound Punjab without attending any event, including a rally, and the Centre blamed the Congress government in Punjab for the security breach. CM Channi, however, claimed that a last-minute change of travel plans by Modi led to the situation.
On Thursday, Channi’s government constituted a committee of retired Justice Mehtab Singh Gill and Principal Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice, Anurag Verma to conduct an investigation.
In Delhi, Union minister Anurag Thakur indicated that the Home Ministry will act on the security breach.
”The home ministry has also spoken about taking action. After gathering information, whatever steps… big and tough decisions will be taken by it,” he told reporters during a briefing on a cabinet meeting.
The Home Ministry announced the panel later in the day.
Earlier, Modi met President Ram Nath Kovind, who expressed concern over the security lapse.
”President Ram Nath Kovind met Prime Minister Modi at the Rashtrapati Bhavan today and received from him a first-hand account of the security breach in his convoy in Punjab yesterday,” the President’s secretariat said on Twitter.
“The President expressed his concerns about the serious lapse,” it added.
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu too has spoken with the PM.
The Supreme Court will on Friday hear a plea seeking a thorough investigation into the security breach. A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana took note of senior advocate Maninder Singh’s submission on the issue.
”Serve the copy (of the petition) to the state government. We will take it tomorrow as the first item,” the bench, also comprising Justices Surya Kant and Hima Kohli, said.
CM Channi took an aggressive stand at a public meeting in Hoshiarpur’s Tanda, maintaining that the security threat claim was “cheap theatrics” that did not behove a leader of the PM’s stature.
The chief minister claimed that Modi cancelled his trip because of the “thin” crowd at the Ferozepur rally venue, and there was a “conspiracy” to defame the state.
”Yesterday’s gimmick by the PM and his coterie is aimed at imposing President Rule on the state,” he said.
In Uttarkashi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said if the safety of the prime minister cannot be ensured, it would be difficult to prevent the “disintegration of the country’s democratic institutions.” The Punjab BJP said it did not have any expectations from the probe committee set up by the state government.
“The chief minister is the conspirator of this conspiracy. What will this committee set up by his government do?” Punjab BJP president Ashwani Sharma told reporters after meeting the Governor.
The BJP delegation demanded the dismissal of the state home minister — Deputy Chief Minister Sukjinder Singh Randhawa holds the portfolio – and DGP S Chattopadhyay over the lapse.