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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Navjot Singh Sidhu gets bullet-proof Land Cruiser from Punjab CM’s fleet over ‘higher threat perception’

The move comes after the home department headed by the Punjab CM Amarinder Singh enhanced his cabinet colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu’s security cover to ‘Z Plus’ category.

india Updated: Jan 10, 2019 09:53 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
The Land Cruiser outside Navjot Sidhu’s official residence in Chandigarh
The Land Cruiser outside Navjot Sidhu’s official residence in Chandigarh(HT Photo )

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, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh has sent Sidhu a bullet-proof Toyota Land Cruiser from his own fleet.

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 enhanced Sidhu’s security cover to ‘Z Plus’ category.

“He (Sidhu) should have avoided indulging in such a gesture when Indian soldiers are getting killed every day on the borders. After all, it is the Army chief who gives the orders to kill,” the CM had said after the August incident in Pakistan.

State home secretary NS Kalsi has also 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 Central Industrial Security Force (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 right-wing outfit from Uttar Pradesh, too has announced a bounty of Rs 1 crore for his head for his 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 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,” Surjewala had said, pointing out that the ministry has provided CISF cover to Akali leader and former Punjab minister Bikram Singh Majithia too.

Punjab is making its case for more security to Sidhu 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.

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 Sidhu 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 armouredMitsubishi Monteros to Toyota Land Cruisers -- costing Rs1.3 crore and Rs35 lakh extra on bullet-proofing.

First Published: Jan 10, 2019 09:52 IST