When Prime Minister Modi became a sitting duck
Those 20 minutes in Punjab could have been a nightmare for the nation. Thankfully, PM returned safe. Imagine, what would be going through in his mind during those fateful moments.
It is to his destiny’s credit that PM Narendra Modi is still alive. During his Punjab visit on January 5, he could not take a helicopter ride from Bhatinda due to bad weather and travelled to Ferozpur by road, instead. As his convoy reached the flyover near Piareana village on Moga-Ferozpur Road, his escorts realised that the road ahead was blocked by protesting farmers. Consequently, PM remained stranded there for 20 long minutes, sitting defenceless in his car with zero protection from sniper shots, remote-controlled IED blasts and frontal assault by suicidal protesters driving tractors. The convoy in-charge was too dim-witted to beat a hasty retreat within seconds. If any, no immediate evacuation plan was in sight. Lo and behold, his proximate security was guarded by four SPG boys who, instead of blocking his sitting position to public viewing, were allowing him to be photographed.
Those 20 minutes could have been a nightmare for the nation. Thankfully, the PM returned safe. Imagine, what would be going through in his mind during those fateful moments. Surely, it must be gripped by a surge of anger, fear, disappointment, loneliness and betrayal. His parting remarks said it all: “Tell your chief minister, I am returning alive.” But the Punjab CM called a threat to PM’s life a gimmick, an attempt to destabilise his government and an election stunt. His politics couldn’t be more wicked and insensitive.
PM Modi’s vulnerability to a fatal attack -- from terrorists, militants, insurgents, Naxalites, religious fanatics, Khalistanis and Indians who nurse pathological hatred for him -- is no secret. But let’s not believe that the Punjab CM or protesting farmers conspired with Khalistanis and ISI to target him on the flyover. Undeniably, his virulent critics have all along been planning to physically harm him but that they could create a situation to have him as a sitting duck on the flyover would never have visited even in their wildest dreams. They are, of course, wiser now. Actually, what happened on January 5 was due to a total breakdown in communication from decision-makers to the last man on duty, a complete absence of supervision of arrangements by officers for his road journey and an extremely casual approach by the state administration to the visit.
Our response to the security lapse has been pathetic. Within hours, officers responsible for securing the visit should have been sacked or suspended pending inquiry and President’s rule imposed. The political and administrative costs had to be prompt and heavy. But that was not to be. Alas! what we now have is a judicial commission whose recommendations will most likely end up in a few police heads rolling, some cosmetic changes in the Blue Book and verbose expression of plenty of anguish.
Amar Bhushan is a former special secretary, Research and Analysis Wing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.