Charanjit Singh Channi will become the next chief minister of Punjab, the Congress party announced on Sunday.
Senior Congess leader Harish Rawat tweeted Channi was unanimously elected as the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab.
Channi, the Chamkaur Sahib MLA, will become Punjab’s first Dalit chief minister. Channi will take the oath of office at 11 am tomorrow.
Channi met the Punjab governor and staked claim to form government, sources said, adding that Rawat and the party’s central observers Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary accompanied him. “My best wishes to Charanjit Singh Channi. I hope he’s able to keep the border state of Punjab safe and protect our people from the growing security threat from across the border”, Amarinder Singh said.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi congratulated Charanjit Singh Channi on Sunday after he was picked as the next Punjab chief minister, and said the party must continue to fulfil the promises made to the people of the state.
“Congratulations to Shri Charanjit Singh Channi Ji for the new responsibility. We must continue to fulfil the promises made to the people of Punjab. Their trust is of paramount importance,” Rahul tweeted.
Another senior leader, Brahm Mohindra, too welcomed the election of Channi, who is considered close to state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Announcement after day of speculation
The development comes after much speculation with the names of former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, current state unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa doing the rounds for the top post in Punjab.
As per News18, supporters of Randhawa on Sunday reached outside his residence in Punjab’s Gurdaspur and shouted slogans in his favour.
Earlier on Sunday, reports of Randhawa being made chief minister of Punjab emerged, but sources said discussions were ongoing at the New Delhi residence of Rahul Gandhi with Ambika Soni and no final decision had been taken.
Randhawa was a member of the outgoing cabinet headed by Amarinder Singh. The 62-year-old was heading the ministries of jails and cooperation. After Channi’s name was announced, Randhawa said, “I welcome the decision of the party high command.”
Randhawa earlier told News18 that he was not greedy for any posts and that the final decision will lie with Congress high command.
When the media persons had asked that can it be assumed that they were talking to the future chief minister, Randhawa quipped, ” You are talking to a Congressman”. In a veiled dig at Amarinder Singh, he then added, “A chief minister remains (in his post) only till the time when his party, people of the state stand by him”.
“Not mine, don’t know who’s but it will be done for sure,” Randhawa told news agency ANI, on being asked whether he will be taking oath as the Punjab chief minister today.
Asked how soon can one expect the name of the new CLP leader to be announced, Randhawa said, “We have authorised Congress president in this regard.” He said the party senior leadership has not only to talk to the MLAs, but other stalwarts too before finalizing the name.
Asked why so much time is being taken to announce the CLP leader, he said, “If you have to make a village sarpanch, sometimes it takes 20 days to decide”. However, he assured the new CLP leader’s name will be announced later in the day.
On Amarinder saying he felt humiliated, Randhawa replied, “So far, the BJP has changed five chief ministers. And in the Congress too, some chief ministers have been changed. In Congress, Amarinder Singh has a maximum tenure of nine-and-half years as chief minister. The honour he got, I think no other chief minister got so much.”
To a question over what caused differences with Amarinder, he said, “When we felt that promises which were made… and elections were near and the Congress high-command and we too felt worried”.
Randhawa had earlier this year joined hands with Navjot Singh Sidhu, and had targeted his own government over alleged failure to fulfil the promises made in the run-up to the 2017 polls including those related to the sacrilege incidents (in 2015). On Amarinder’s outbursts against Sidhu after he resigned as chief minister, Randhawa termed it as “unfortunate” that a senior leader had used such words.
“I think it is unfortunate that such words have been used against Punjab Congress chief by a senior leader,” he said. “Even when there were differences with Amarinder Singh since April 26, but you must have never heard me speak any word against him in a disrespectful manner,” said Randhawa. “Even today, I consider him like a father,” said the Jails and Cooperation minister in the outgoing cabinet.
“…Till the time we (Amarinder Singh and Randhawa) were together, you saw that I was very close to him. When he hurt me, then I followed my conscience,” Randhawa said.
As per NDTV, Soni was apparently asked to take over the job but she denied stating that only a person from the Sikh community should head the state government. “I’ve declined the offer (to be the next Punjab CM). Party’s exercise is going on in Chandigarh with the general secretary and observers are taking views of all MLAs. I believe Punjab CM face should be a Sikh,” Soni told ANI.
On Saturday, Congress veteran Captain Amarinder Singh resigned as chief minister of Punjab with less than five months to go for the Assembly polls after a bruising power struggle with state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu and had said that he felt “humiliated” over the way the party handled the protracted crisis.
The 79-year-old Amarinder, one of the Congress’ powerful regional satraps, had put in his papers after speaking to the Congress president and shortly before a crucial meeting of the CLP here on Saturday evening. He had later launched a no-holds-barred attack against Sidhu, describing his bete noire, a cricketer-turned-politician, as a “total disaster”.
The BJP had earlier announced that if voted to power in Punjab, it will make a Dalit the chief minister, while the SAD, which is fighting the coming polls in alliance with the BSP, had said that its Deputy Chief Minister would be from the Dalit community.
The BJP on Sunday took a swipe at the Congress over its Punjab chief ministerial pick Charanjit Singh Channi, citing reported allegations that he had sent an inappropriate text to an IAS officer in 2018. BJP leader Amit Malviya, who is its IT department head, tweeted, “Congress’s CM pick Charanjit Channi faces action in a 3-year-old MeToo case. He had allegedly sent an inappropriate text to a woman IAS officer in 2018. It was covered up but the case resurfaced when Punjab Women’s Commission sent notice. Well done, Rahul.” The issue had resurfaced in May this year when Punjab women panel chief threatened to go on a hunger strike if the state government failed to apprise her within a week of its stand on the inappropriate text message allegedly sent by Channi, who was then a minister in the Amarinder Singh government.
Punjab Women Commission chairperson Manisha Gulati had said she had written to the chief secretary seeking the government’s action taken report. Malviya also posted a story reported in May this year that said that outgoing chief minister Amarinder Singh’s rivals within the party had accused him of “hounding” them with old cases.
Following the 2018 allegation, the Punjab Women Commission had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and had sought the government’s stand even then. At that time, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had asked Channi to tender an apology to the woman officer and had said he believed the matter has been resolved to her satisfaction.
With inputs from agencies