With the attack on the heart of the state intelligence apparatus shaking the 50-day-old Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Punjab, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann faces, perhaps, his most severe test as opposition parties raise questions over his ability to manage law and order in the critical border state.
The daring Rocket Propelled Grenade (RPG) attack on the headquarters of the Intelligence wing in Mohali has dented the image of the Punjab Police, which is now rummaging for clues to nab the culprits.
The attack follows a series of subversive acts in the state, fuelling reports that Punjab was turning into either a target for terror groups or transit point for drugs, arms and ammunition to other states.
Two days ago, there was a seizure of RDX from Tarn Taran and four Khalistan terrorists were nabbed by Haryana Police.
The Mann government has come in for criticism not only for repeated subversive acts, but also managing the aftermath.
For instance, after Monday’s attack on Mohali, a section of the party and government tried to pass off the attack as an “accidental blast” in the office, only to make amends later. Observers claim that with minimum experience in handling law and order, Mann was still to come to grips with administration.
This has fuelled the charge from the united Opposition that the Mann-led government was “remote-controlled from Delhi”, leading to delay in taking crucial decisions. The grenade attack is not an isolated case that has exposed the Punjab government to criticism that Mann is inept at handling a crisis.
While it was still battling with the investigation of the Patiala communal riots on April 29, the Opposition cried foul on the way the Punjab Police crossed borders to arrest Bharatiya Janata Party leader Tajinder Bagga and the way arrest warrants were issued against Congress leader Alka Lamba and AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal’s former associate Kumar Vishwas. While all of them have approached the courts to seek stay, the opposition has termed these actions based on “Kejriwal’s orders”, thus making the Punjab Police look helpless.
Leader of the Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said, “The Bhagwant Mann government must concentrate on the deteriorating law and order situation in the state rather than adhering to orders from Delhi.”
He said communal riots, drugs, arms and ammunition being recovered, and now a blast point towards lack of control.
Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, too, joined the chorus, saying that the Mann government should soon take corrective steps before the situation goes out of control.
The state government, however, maintained that stern and exemplary action would be taken against those found guilty of disturbing peace and harmony.