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Let me tell you a story first. I do not know if it is true or false, but its message is quite pertinent. It is said that US President Lyndon Johnson was once walking outside the White House. There was thick fog. Suddenly a passerby collided with him. He asked: “Who are you?" The president answered: “Actually I’m trying to figure out who I am." The passerby thought that he had collided with a crazy man. He pointed to the White House and asked sarcastically: “Do you know who lives there?" The answer was: “No one lives there permanently. People just come and go." How true this is. Those holding statutory posts come and go, but their work and the dignity of the institutions remain.

What happened during the Punjab visit of the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy is a brazen violation of established norms and conventions. We must not forget that we have already lost a prime minister and a former prime minister because of a security breach. All this happened in the border area of Punjab and there was a need for better security arrangements, but what took place was just the opposite. This is also the time for amendments in the “Blue Book" maintained by the Intelligence Bureau.

It is a sensitive matter. Union information and broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur has rightly spoken about exemplary action. However, since the beginning, the Punjab government is trying to blame others. Our country has a system of multi-party democracy. It has been happening for long that there is a government of a particular party or coalition at the Centre, while simultaneously some states have been governed by parties with radically opposite views. Because of the divergent ideologies, the conflict between state and central interests and the personal egos of some leaders, this gap keeps on deepening. This does not bode well for the federal structure of the country.

Sometime before and during the elections of West Bengal last year, we witnessed a number of somewhat bizarre scenes. One can remember how the Bengal Police had kept Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) officers captive. Not only this, the car of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) national president J.P. Nadda was also attacked. Many BJP leaders there are protected by central paramilitary forces, though this is the job of state governments. As state police work on the instructions of the chief minister, such allegations are made by the leaders of almost all political parties, from time to time, in all states, including West Bengal.

It is not that the central forces and agencies are completely clean. The CBI, enforcement directorate, and the income tax department were already facing allegations. However, here I am discussing the goods and services tax department. This agency had raided the hidey-hole of perfume dealer Piyush Jain in Kanpur. The recovery of 177.45 crore should have been appreciated but the opposite happened. It resulted in political mudslinging between the BJP and the Samajwadi Party (SP). A few days later, the same thing happened with the income tax raids at SP MLC Pampi Jain. It’s an old allegation of the opposition that the Union government uses these agencies against its affiliates during elections. This is not happening for the first time. Modi, as the chief minister of Gujarat, has been a victim of this.

Election after election this trend is getting stronger. This incident of Punjab will prove to be a turning point in this. No doubt that there has been a clear violation of the procedure followed during the visit of the prime minister. It would have been better if the Punjab government had acted with an open mind, but election time has its own compulsions. Chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi constituted a commission of inquiry and then put the whole thing in political mode. BJP leaders are also doing the same.

The Union home ministry has also constituted a high-level inquiry committee, but the Supreme Court has issued an order on Friday and sought reports from all concerned officials and agencies. Till then all investigations will be put on hold. Proceedings will restart on Monday, but the politics on this issue will keep going.

Here I would like to quote one security expert from the US. After an attack on then US President Ronald Regan in 1992, he said our security managers should always recognize that your ‘subject’ is like fragile glass in your palm. All the forces of the world, including your dear ones, may want to break it. You have to protect it, knowing that it can break at any time. Needless to say, since then, no US president has been attacked like that. We also have to make our arrangements in the same way. This is also the lesson of Hussainiwala.

Shashi Shekhar is editor-in-chief, Hindustan. The views expressed are personal.

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