Firing back at the Centre over a security breach that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi stuck on a highway for 20 minutes on Wednesday, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi Friday alleged a "deep conspiracy" to impose central rule in the state ahead of elections.
"It is a deep conspiracy to defame Punjab and Punjabiyat. It is an attempt to vitiate the situation in the state. It is an attempt to impose President's Rule in Punjab," Mr Channi told NDTV in an interview.
"They made such a huge allegation on Punjab and Punjabis and portrayed us as killers. We are nationalists. We have fought in several wars for the country and many of us have died in the line of duty. I have already said I would be the first to take a bullet for the Prime Minister. What else should I do? Slash my wrist and bleed out?" - said the furious leader, who took charge of the Punjab Congress government four months ago.
Campaigning for the Punjab election due by March, Mr Channi hit out at the BJP's allegations of endangering PM Modi's life with "murderous intentions".
"Where was the threat to his life? Nobody was within a kilometre of you. No stone was thrown, no bullet was fired, no slogans were raised. How can you say 'I made it alive'! Such a sensitive statement from such a big leader. People voted you as Prime Minister - you should make responsible statements. You are saying we want to kill our Prime Minister."
Mr Channi accused the BJP of propagating a false story of what went down on Wednesday when PM Modi's route was blocked by protesters on his way to a rally in Punjab's Ferozabad by road. Though the Prime Minister was supposed to fly to the rally site, he couldn't because of bad weather. After he was stranded for 15-20 minutes on a flyover in Bathinda, he cancelled his events and headed back to the airport.
Both the Centre and the Punjab government have launched separate investigations into the incident and the Supreme Court has taken up petitions seeking action.
The Chief Minister alleged that PM Modi had, all along, planned to turn back to hide the poor turnout at his rally.
"Actually, the PM had intended to turn around after 10 km because 70,000 chairs were put at the venue but not even 700 showed up. All chairs were empty. They felt it was better to make a u-turn 10 km before the venue. How petty they are! Just to ensure that empty chairs are not shown on TV they made up this new thing - 'the PM is in danger, he survived, mrityunjay jaap happening everywhere... Why are you taking the country on the wrong path? We are nationalists. Every time elections come you suddenly remember nationalism and pretend to be nationalists," Mr Channi said.