Congress Plays Dalit Card, Names Charanjit Channi As Punjab CM

Chandigarh: After a 24-hour drama, the Congress party sprang a surprise by playing the Dalit card and naming Charanjit Singh Channi as the next chief minister of Punjab.

Announcing the news, Congress’ Punjab in-charge Harish tweeted: “It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Sh. #CharanjitSinghChanni has been unanimously elected as the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab.”

Captain Amarinder Singh resigned after being in the ‘hot seat’ for almost two terms.

Assembly elections in Punjab are due in five months’ time.

A long-time Dalit activist, 48-year-old Channi is a three-time MLA and was Minister of Technical Educational & industrial Training in the Punjab government.

Several names had been doing the rounds since Amarinder’s resignation on Saturday afternoon, but no one spoke of Dalit activist and former minister Channi as a possible CM candidate.

Navjyot Singh Sidhu was initially thought to be the frontrunner. The former Team India opener was a bitter critic of Captain Amarinder and was recently appointed Punjab Congress chief.

However, he wasn’t a unanimous choice at the Congress Legislature Party meeting on Saturday evening. Amarinder also put his foot down, saying that Sidhu would be a “disaster” as CM as he is an incompetent leader and close with Pakistan PM and ISI chief.

On Monday, Congress president Sonia Gandhi – who had been entrusted with the responsibility to pick the new CM — approached Ambika Soni to head the state.

But the senior leader turned down the offer, saying that a Sikh should be the chief minister of Punjab.

“It has been my belief, not from today but since the past 50 years, that the main face or the chief minister of Punjab should be a Sikh. It is the only state in the country where Sikhs can be made a chief minister,” Soni said.

Back to square one, the Congress leadership then considered former Punjab party chief Sunil Jakhar. But even he was not acceptable to all.

Then there were reports that Congress had almost zeroed in on Sukhjinder Randhawa, and it was just a matter of time before his name would be made formal. However, there was another twist in the tale. Ultimately, ‘rank outsider’ Channi got the nod.

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