Union Home Minister Amit Shah has urged AIMIM chief and Lok Sabha MP Asaduddin Owaisi to accept the offer of 'Z' category security cover from the central government after shots were fired at his car last week while he was returning from campaigning for this month's Uttar Pradesh election.
"There is a threat to Owaisi's security... the government has decided to provide 'Z' category security (with a bullet-proof) car but Owaisi has refused. I request, through the members of the House, that he accept this cover," Mr Shah told Parliament.
"Two unidentified people fired on the motorcade. He (Mr Owaisi) came out safe but there were three bullet marks on (the) lower sections of his vehicle. The incident was witnessed by three witnesses and a First Information Report, or FIR, has been registered," the Home Minister said.
The minister said two people had been arrested so far and police had recovered two pistols and also seized a Maruti Alto car. "The accused are being interrogated... police have visited the spot," Mr Shah said, underlining, ahead of elections in the state, that "law and order is under control in UP".
Amit Shah also appeared to lay part of the blame on Mr Owaisi himself, saying the police had not been informed of his movement. "Owaisi had no prescheduled event in Hapur district... no information about his movement was sent to District Control Room beforehand," he said.
Mr Shah's appeal to Mr Owaisi comes after the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen chief turned down the offer of 'Z' security cover, which is the second-highest level of protection.
"I don't want 'Z' category security. I want to be an A-category citizen. Why was UAPA not invoked against those who fired at me?" he asked, referring to the controversial anti-terror law used extensively and disproportionately against Muslims (according to critics) by BJP-led governments.
"I want to live, to speak. My life will be safe when the poor are safe. I will not get scared of those who shot at my car," Mr Owaisi said in Parliament last week.
The government decided to provide Mr Owaisi with 'Z' category security - which involves round-the-clock protection by Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commandos - after reviewing the threat level following last week's attack, which came just a week ahead of elections in Uttar Pradesh.
Images tweeted by Mr Owaisi showed two bullet holes on his white SUV. The third hit a tyre.
The two arrested have been sent to 14 days' custody.
One of the accused is Sachin, who faces charges of attempted murder in a different case and who claims to be a member of a Hindu right-wing organisation. Photographs have emerged of Sachin posing with political leaders from poll-bound UP, including Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma.
The other accused is Shubham, a farmer from Saharanpur who does not have a criminal record.
Police also recovered country-made pistols and are now looking for those who sold the firearms.
The incident has (predictably) triggered a massive political row, with Mr Owaisi claiming "bigger persons and minds" were behind the attack on his convoy.
Meanwhile, the Election Commission has directed Chief Secretaries of all poll-bound states to ensure adequate protection to star campaigners of all political parties.