Congress chief Rahul Gandhi escaped unhurt after helium balloons used to welcome him exploded at his rally in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur district on Saturday.
The incident reportedly occurred when Gandhi’s convoy was passing through a road where scores of supporters had queued to welcome him with ‘aarthi thalis’. The balloons came in contact with a few lamps and caught fire, causing an explosion.
In a video of the accident, the Congress President can be seen greeting supporters from a vehicle when the celebratory balloons suddenly burst into flames. After the explosion, Gandhi and supporters in the crowd looked shaken and clamoured for safety.
Jabalpur Superintendent of Police Amit Singh on Sunday confirmed the incident but denied any lapse in security. "There would have been lapse if the incident had occurred inside the security ring, but it occurred around 15-feet away. Nobody was injured in the incident, though there was a flame due to helium (gas) in the balloon," Singh told PTI.
He added that a Congress block president, identified as Kaudi Lal Rai, wanted to greet Gandhi. Some party workers were standing beside him holding balloons. “The balloons came into contact with the lamp and a huge flame went up," the police officer was quoted as saying by PTI.
Replying to a question about how helium filled balloons were allowed at Gandhi's rally, an SPG-protectee, Singh said that the Blue Book (security guidelines) doesn't state that such balloons or the 'aarti' plate are not allowed. "One can obviously be startled, if a balloon bursts near one even in a birthday party," he said.
Gandhi had on Saturday started his 8-kilometre road show in MP’s Jabalpur district after paying obeisance to the Narmada River, with hundreds of posters dotting the route terming him a "Narmada bhakt".