India prime minister Modi trapped on flyover in ‘major security lapse’

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  • Narendra Modi
    Narendra Modi
    Prime Minister of India and former Chief minister of Gujarat
File: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during an event (AFP via Getty Images)
File: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during an event (AFP via Getty Images)

India’s prime minister Narendra Modi was stuck on a flyover in the western state of Punjab for nearly 20 minutes in a major security lapse, according to the federal home ministry.

The prime minister landed in Bathinda city on Wednesday and was supposed to travel to a nearby memorial site for freedom fighters by helicopter. Punjab is set to hold important local elections before the end of March this year.

Mr Modi decided to undertake a two-hour journey by road because of bad weather, but the road he was on was blocked by protesters, the home ministry said in a statement.

“PM waited for about 20 minutes for the weather to clear out. He proceeded to travel by road after necessary confirmation of necessary security arrangements by the DGP [Director General of Police] Punjab Police (sic),” the ministry said.

Terming it a “major lapse in the security of the PM”, the ministry added that the prime minister’s convoy was stuck for 15-20 minutes on the flyover around 30km away from The National Martyrs Memorial at Hussainiwala village.

Mr Modi’s schedule and travel plan was communicated to the state government in Punjab, run by the opposition Congress party, the home ministry said.

It alleged that the state government did not deploy additional security to secure any movement by road.

Images shared from the spot showed the prime minister’s convoy stranded on the flyover with officials from his Special Protection Group covering the car.

Mr Modi and his party has been facing resistance from locals in Punjab, which has a large farming community, ever since the government passed three contentious farm laws in 2020.

After facing massive protests spanning a year, the laws were finally withdrawn by Mr Modi in December last year.

Following the “security lapse”, the prime minister cancelled a rally and returned to the Bathinda airport.

The incident has turned into a political controversy at a time when state elections are looming.

Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has struggled to muster popular support in Punjab, especially since the farm laws were introduced, after which a local state ally had also cut ties with the party.

Smriti Irani, a federal minister and member of the BJP, accused the Congress of trying to harm the prime minister.

"Such is the breakdown of law and order in Punjab that the Director General of Police claims he’s incapable of providing security support to the PMO [Prime Minister’s Office] and security details,” she said at a press conference.

BJP chief JP Nadda accused the state’s chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi of refusing to “get on the phone to either address the matter or solve it”.

“The tactics used by the Congress government in Punjab would pain anyone who believes in democratic principles,” he tweeted.

Refuting the allegations, Mr Channi told news network News18 that there was no security lapse and the prime minister “had a plan to arrive by air but came by road without informing [us]”.

“I had requested protesters to clear the roads by 3pm,” he added.

The home ministry has sought a detailed report from the state government and asked them to “fix responsibility for this lapse” and take action.

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