March 30, 2023

Cong’s Punjab CM face: What may have tilted the scales in Channi’s favour | India News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday declared Charanjit Singh Channi as the party’s chief ministerial face for Punjab elections at a widely-watched event in Ludhiana.
The rise of the 58-year-old Dalit legislator from Chamkaur Sahib has been almost meteoric. More so because top leaders like Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu were also contending to be the party’s face in the state.
Yet, today’s announcement was rather predictable.
The Congress, on its part, has made it known that a consultation exercise with party workers was undertaken before declaring the CM face.
Nonetheless, Channi had several strong factors going for him which the party could have hardly ignored.
First Dalit chief minister of Punjab
Channi has the distinction of being the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab where politics has largely been dominated by Jat-Sikhs.
However, at 32 per cent, Dalits also form a sizeable section of the population.
The Congress has tried to take the moral high ground and can be seen as championing the cause of Dalits. Naming somebody other than Channi would have led credence to attacks from rival parties that Channi was just a “nightwatchman”.
All rival formations are led by Jat Sikhs, barring BJP. AAP leader Bhagwant Mann and Akali Dal’s Sukhbir Badal belong to the enterprising community.
The BJP has Amarinder Singh, another Jat Sikh leader, as its tallest ally. Sidhu also belongs to the community and hails from a prosperous background.
But Rahul Gandhi chose to highlight Channi’s “gareeb aadmi” credentials instead.
Projecting a ‘humble CM’
Having ruled Punjab under Patiala royal Amarinder Singh, the Congress is now trying to shed anti-incumbency by highlighting Channi’s humble roots.
“He understands the issues related to poverty deeply,” Rahul Gandhi extolled Channi as he made the announcement today.
The Congress has been trying project Channi as someone who is from the street and can mix with the masses.
Not viable to dump another CM
The Congress has totally distanced itself from its former leader and chief minister Amarinder Singh.
The party now blames him for many of the problems being faced by the state.
By undermining Channi, the party would be left with no work to showcase.
Instead, it it craftily presenting Channi’s work as a contrast to that of Amarinder Singh.
Issue of corruption
In his speech on Sunday, Channi said that he was coming down hard on sand mafia and others and a lot of people were now upset with him.
He also referred to ED raids that have been carried out against one of his relatives.
While Congress has strongly backed Channi in the episode, removing him before the polling would given the opposition ammo to attack him more fiercely on the issue of graft.
Few competitors
While the Congress has several experienced leaders in Punjab, the competition for the top position was largely between Channi and state party chief Sidhu.
However, after Channi became chief minister, the decisions and campaign were largely carried out in his name.
Despite Sidhu contending for the post himself, the party appeared to have firmly backed Channi in the last few weeks.
It is even fielding Channi from two seats (Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur) for the February 20 polls, a move that had indicated Congress’s desire to pick the Dalit leader as its CM face.

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