The Latest Blow From The Congress Fight Club In Punjab

The Centre's decision to extend BSF's jurisdiction across a larger area along the borders of three states has sparked uproar in Punjab.

The Latest Blow From The Congress Fight Club In Punjab
The Latest Blow From The Congress Fight Club In Punjab

The Centre's decision to extend the Border Security Force's (BSF) jurisdiction across a larger belt along the frontiers of three states has sparked widespread outrage in Punjab, exacerbating the state's Congress-Congress dispute. Days after meeting with Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi slammed the move, coming under fire from his own party. 

The BSF's jurisdiction in West Bengal, Punjab, and Assam will be enlarged from 15 kilometres to 50 kilometres within and along the border, according to a home ministry order. According to the directive, the BSF has the authority to arrest, search, and seize people in a zone where its powers may conflict with those of the state police in Amritsar, Tarn Taran, and Pathankot. The Golden Temple is around 35 kilometres from the Pakistani border at Attari.

"I strongly condemn the government's unilateral decision to give additional powers to BSF within 50 km belt running along the international borders, which is a direct attack on the federalism. I urge the Union Home Minister Amit Shah to immediately roll back this irrational decision," Mr Channi tweeted, amid a massive backlash."We condemn this decision. It is an infringement on the federal structure and will create an atmosphere of fear in Punjab. People will not tolerate this," said his deputy and Punjab Home Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa. "Punjab has never seen communal violence. We urge Prime Minister Narendra Modi not to disturb the peace of the state," Mr Randhawa added.

Sunil Jakhar, the former Punjab Congress chairman, took aim at the Chief Minister over the home ministry decision, which came barely a week after he met with Amit Shah and advocated for the international border to be sealed to prevent drug and weapon trafficking. 

"Be cautious about what you ask for! Is it possible that Charanjit Channi has unknowingly handed over half of Punjab to the national government? The BSF now has authority over 25,000 square kilometres (out of a total of 50,000 square kilometres). Punjab Police has been chastised. Do we still want states to have more autonomy? "Mr. Jakhar took to Twitter to express his thoughts.

Sukhjinder Randhawa said the Chief Minister had never asked for it.
"He just appealed to check drug and arms supply across the border and seal it. Jakhar-sahab and I are both residents of a border area; he should not have tweeted this," Mr Randhawa remarked.

Amarinder Singh, whom Mr Channi replaced, approved of the move.
"Our soldiers are being killed in Kashmir. We're seeing more and more weapons and drugs being pushed by Pakistan-backed terrorists into Punjab. BSF's enhanced presence and powers will only make us stronger. Let's not drag central armed forces into politics," the captain tweeted.

The Congress has yet to resolve its other issue: Navjot Sidhu, who resigned as the party's Punjab Congress chief barely four months before the state elections. He has yet to retract his resignation and plans to meet with senior party officials tomorrow. 

Mr Sidhu created the stage for Mr Channi's takeover after his competitor Amarinder Singh resigned as Chief Minister, but he has been dissatisfied with the new Chief Minister's selections for important positions such as Attorney General, police chief, and ministries.

While the Congress battles it out in Punjab, the BJP's war-room met with Amit Shah this evening to discuss the upcoming elections. Despite the fact that the BJP has been at a disadvantage in Punjab since its split with long-time ally Akali Dal, a meeting between top BJP leaders and Amarinder Singh hinted that the party could benefit from the Congress's defeat.