Sanjha Morcha

Z-plus Sidhu gets bullet-proof Land Cruiser from Capt fleet Zoom

State writes to Union home ministry, seeks CISF cover for minister citing ‘threat due to hugging Pak Army chief, acrimonious relations with SAD’

CHANDIGARH: Months after he publicly snubbed his cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu for hugging Pakistan army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa during the swearing-in ceremony of Imran Khan as prime minister in August last year, the home department headed by chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has made a case for providing him security cover by the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) based on higher threat perception after he hugged the Pak Army chief.

This week, the CM has sent Sidhu a bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser from his own fleet. The move comes after the home department headed by the CM has enhanced Sidhu’s security cover to ‘Z Plus’ category.

State home secretary NS Kalsi has written to Union home secretary Rajiv Gauba on January 3 that the Punjab minister be provided the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) cover, preferably by the CISF. The National Security Guards (NSG) and the CISF provide security cover to all VVIP protectees in the country.

“The threat perception to Sidhu has increased significantly after his visit to Pakistan to attend the swearing-in of Imran Khan as PM, where he hugged their army chief. He was also threatened by Dera Sacha Sauda followers in July 2018 for speaking against their head and the Hindu Yuva Vahini, a rightwing outfit from Uttar Pradesh, too has announced a bounty of ₹1 crore for his head for his alleged connections with Pakistan,” reads the letter written by Kalsi.

Till the Centre obliges, Amarinder is learnt to have been nudged by the Congress high command to enhance Sidhu’s security. Congress chief spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala had written to Union home minister Rajnath Singh in November last year seeking CISF security cover for Sidhu citing “growing threat perception” to his life. Surjewala had told Rajnath that Sidhu will be travelling extensively outside Punjab as Congress star campaigner and is an “outspoken critic of the Narendra Modi government’s policies”.

“While the state has provided him adequate security, Punjab police personnel cannot be assigned the responsibility of (Sidhu’s) security in rest of India,” Randeep Surjewala has said, pointing out that the ministry has provided CISF cover to Akali leader and former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia too.

Punjab is seeking security for the minister also by citing his bashing of the Badals. “Sidhu has developed an acrimonious relationship with the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leaders for his criticism of alleged anti-people policies and support to mafias. He has also earned the wrath of the drug mafia and gangsters, especially in Majha region, for his high-pitched campaign against them,” the letter adds.

It says security for Sidhu outside Punjab is important as he will be campaigning vigourously during the Lok Sabha polls and the threat perception would escalate further due to his strident criticism of Opposition parties and right wing groups.

Sidhu, who had refused to accept the used Toyota Corolla given to him by the Punjab government as minister saying it had already clocked “8 lakh kilometres”, said he welcomes CM’s concern for his security. “He has given it out of his own entourage and thank him for the gesture,” Sidhu said.

But he might have to thank Badals too. It was former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and his son and former deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, who had ordered a fleet of Land Cruisers for their convoys, which Amarinder has inherited. The Badals had upgraded their fleet from armoured Mitsubishi Monteros to Toyota Land Cruisers -costing ₹1.3 crore and ₹35 lakh extra on bullet-proofing.