Channi Hits Sidhu Out Of Stadium For A 6

Channi Hits Sidhu Out Of Stadium For A Six

After AAP announced Mr. Bhagwant Mann as their chief ministerial candidate for the upcoming Punjab assembly elections, it became imperative for Congress to follow suit.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi made a formal announcement at a public rally on February 6, 2022, declaring Charanjit Singh Channi to be the Congress’s Chief Ministerial candidate for the upcoming assembly elections in Punjab.

This announcement was made in the presence of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was considered to be another claimant for the post of Chief Minister.


It may seem like a truism as being the sitting Chief Minister, Channi automatically becomes the face of the party for the elections. But the ongoing tug of war between Chief Minister Channi and Punjab Pradesh Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu for the top job had muddied the party’s prospects in the forthcoming elections.

Their feud had become an open secret and was adversely affecting the party’s chances in the polls as the party seemed to be a house divided. Hence, the party needed to declare a clear CM face to the party and the voting public going into the elections.

The things that transpired behind closed doors, which eventually led to this decision, warrant a clinical analysis of the situation in Punjab. Mr. Channi has been the Chief Minister of Punjab for around 111 days by now. Still, he emerged as a trendy leader within this short span, making this decision inevitable and necessary.

This decision was pushed through without considering what Mr. Sidhu might put up resistance. In the end, Mr. Sidhu went down quietly at this public rally, and he promised Congress leader Rahul Gandhi that he would cooperate with anybody that the party decided to project.

The dust seems to have settled down on the surface, and the Punjab Congress unit would be working as a team. As usual, there is more than what meets the eye.

The projection of the Chief Ministerial candidate before going in for assembly polls in any state is a rare event for Congress. Usually, these things are left to the party’s High Command once the legislative party meets. Most of the time, the elected legislators empower the high command to decide on their behalf as to who would be the Chief Minister.

Therefore, this particular announcement that Mr. Channi would be the Chief Ministerial face of the Congress requires some explanation. There were a specific set of incidents that led to this event. Last year, Captain Amarinder Singh decided to quit as Chief Minister after he felt humiliated by repeated insinuations and allegations by his state party chief Mr. Sidhu and faced a lot of pressure from his party men. These people seemed to enjoy the support of the high command in their intentions, and Captain Singh felt that Mr. Sidhu was deliberately not being reigned in.

In contrast, the state unit had told the High Command that Captain Amarinder had become inaccessible, depended on a coterie of officials to get his work done and was reluctant to meet anybody. As a result, a high degree of anti-incumbency had built up against the party and Mr. Amarinder Singh.

They also conveyed that if he was not removed as Chief Minister, then the possibility of the party losing the upcoming assembly elections was very high. There was an urgent need to change horse even in the end stream if the party wanted to retain the state.

Mr. Amarinder Singh then quit the party and formed the Punjab Loktantrik Congress and has gotten into an alliance with the BJP and Akali Dal (Sanyukt).

It was expected that since Mr. Sidhu was leading the revolt against Mr. Amarinder Singh with the support of the majority of the MLAs, he would be the natural choice for the post of Chief Minister. But that was not to be as the Congress High Command thought otherwise.

They wanted someone more pliable and more disciplined. The party high command was looking for a face that carried a specific political message with him. This led to zeroing of Mr. Channi, a Dalit. Punjab has one of the largest populations of Dalits in the country, a whopping 32% of the electorate.

It was felt that Mr. Channi as Chief Minister of Punjab would woo this section of the voters to their favor. Mr. Channi was handpicked by Mr. Rahul Gandhi, much to the chagrin of Mr. Sidhu, who did the sound voice of dissonance after that. Mr. Channi pipped Mr. Sidhu to the post while being an underdog.

Not being very high profile and belonging to a marginalized community, he displayed easy familiarity with the people, which endeared him. He took to his new assignment like a duck took to the water and surprise everyone.

This did not go down very well with Mr. Sidhu, who threatened to quit the party if not made the Chief Ministerial candidate. He did send his resignation letter to party President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and leaked the letter in social media. Punjab in-charge Mr. Harish Rawat coached him to withdraw his resignation, which he did. Mr. Sidhu’s shenanigans did not stop here. He started interfering with Mr.

Channi’s administrative matters by creating a lot of commotion over the appointment of DGP for Punjab. Due to this, Mr. Siddharth Chattopadhyay was appointed as DGP in place of Iqbal Singh Sahota, who Mr. Channi chose.

To score further brownie points over Mr. Channi, he created an uproar over the appointment of Mr. A. P. S. Deol as advocate general of Punjab. Mr. Sidhu accused Mr. Deol of appearing for the accused of sacrilege incident in Punjab in 2015. He felt highly aggrieved that the party he had fought with Mr. Amarinder Singh sidelined him and made Mr. Channi the Chief Minister.

Mr. Channi, on his part, did not only rely on his Dalit identity but made himself very accessible to the ordinary people of Punjab, which was the chief grudge against Mr. Amarinder Singh.

He gave helicopter rides to children and fixed electricity cables for poor people. He created enough noise for people to notice and thus started being regarded as a true son of the soil. This made him a viable alternative to both Mr. Amarinder Singh and Mr. Sidhu. The party high command felt that he was popular enough to be projected as the CM face of the party. Congress was trying to kill many birds with this move.

It was not just trying to appeal to the Dalit community in Punjab but across the country to bolster its image as a party working for social justice. Giani Jail Singh was the last non-Jat-Sikh Chief Minister of Punjab.

Since then, all Chief Ministers of Punjab have been Jat-Sikhs. Hence, the present choice is seen as a significant gesture towards the Dalit community. If Mr. Sidhu was projected as CM candidate, then all the hard work done by the party would have been wasted.

The Jat-Sikh community occupy around 20% of the vote share in Punjab. Still, Congress figured out that much of this vote would get divided between Akali Dal, Captain Amarinder Singh, the AAP and themselves.

Hence, the larger Dalit vote share amalgamated with whatever Jat-Sikh vote they can get for themselves can ensure a good showing. For the first time, Punjab looks to have a four-cornered fight.

The people of Punjab have more choice this time than previous times. The downside is that this may result in a hung assembly if no party can get a clear majority due to vote fragmentation. Will the Congress gamble on Mr. Channi pay off? The answer to this will be known on March 10, 2022.

edited and proofread by nikita sharma 

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