Congress chief Rahul Gandhi had a narrow escape from a freak fire that broke out during a rally in Jabalpur, Madhya Pradesh. The Congress chief had held an-8 km roadshow yesterday in the state, where assembly elections will be held on November 28.
A video from the spot showed the sudden blaze as a group of enthusiastic supporters brought a heavy multi-tiered “dia” (lamp) to conduct an aarti of the Congress chief. But the flames touched a bunch of gas balloons that happened to be overhead and huge tongue of fire shot up, the visuals show.
The blaze was out in seconds, but it triggered panic and the people nearby ran for cover.
Mr Gandhi and his party colleague Kamal Nath and Jyotriditya Scindia who were in an open jeep a few meters away, were safe.
The superintendent of Police Amit Singh however denied any security lapse. “They were Congress workers… The mandatory 15 feet distance was very much there and there was no lathicharge … nowhere is it mentioned in the blue book that workers can’t hold balloons and perform aarti,” he said.
There have been frequent allegations of lapses in the security of Rahul Gandhi, who is one of the country’s most-protected leaders.
In April, the Congress had alleged “intentional tampering” of the plane carrying the leader to a political rally in Karnataka and had demanded an investigation.
In its complaint, the party said the aircraft had plunged, listed dangerously to one side and shuddered violently despite the clear weather.
The government has ordered a detailed inquiry into the matter.
Last year, Rahul Gandhi’s security issue had ripples in parliament as the Congress highlighted a stone-pelting attack on him in Gujarat.
In his response, Union Home minister Rajnath Singh had accused Mr Gandhi of violating security protocol on multiple occasions.
Mr Singh said over two years, the Congress leader had carried out 121 planned and unplanned tours. On at least 100 occasions, he did not use a bullet-proof vehicle.
Rahul Gandhi went on foreign tours and informed the SPG at the eleventh hour, creating problems for the officers. Over 2016 and 2017, Rahul Gandhi went on six foreign visits which lasted 72 days. He did not take along his SPG cover on these occasions, Mr Singh had told the Lok Sabha.