Why Channi as CM face may not solve Rahul Gandhi’s Punjab problem

By | February 8, 2022

Before top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi named incumbent Charanjit Singh Channi as the party’s chief ministerial face in the Punjab election, campaign committee chief Sunil Jakhar reportedly told him that the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was gaining traction particularly in the Malwa region that sends 69 of the 117 MLAs to the state assembly.

Sunil Jakhar, former Punjab Congress chief who lost his position to Navjot Singh Sidhu during the latter’s political duel with former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh last year, has quit politics, electoral politics in his words.

Jakhar was the one who drove Rahul Gandhi when he arrived in Punjab on Sunday to announce the CM face. Sidhu and Channi were also sitting in the car But apparently did not know who would be declared the winner in the tele-voting survey that Rahul Gandhi had reportedly ordered.

JAKHAR IN RAHUL GANDHI’S PUNJAB PROBLEM

During his previous visit to Punjab in January-end, Rahul Gandhi had made naming the CM candidate his Punjab problem as he attempted to control the damage caused by party infighting. However, his Punjab problem appeared to attain a new dimension.

Jakhar dropped the first bombshell. He claimed that in another survey undertaken by the party high command, more than 42 MLAs supported him for the CM post after Captain Amarinder Singh was forced to resign. But he claimed to have been denied the CM post “because I am a Punjabi Hindu”.

Jakhar is not particularly known to make statements challenging the Gandhis despite his long association with Captain Amarinder Singh who quit the Congress and hit out at the party’s top leadership. It was Captain Amarinder Singh, who, in the 2017 Punjab election, hinted that it could be his last election, had in 2019 propped Sunil Jakhar as the “first Hindu CM” of Punjab at a rally in Gurdaspur.

As Punjab Congress chief Jakhar had a closer relationship with the party’s MLAs, the majority of whom reportedly supported him for the leadership role in the government. Sidhu was at the receiving end since Channi was always considered a compromise candidate in a stop-gap situation.

NAVJOT SIDHU ‘SILENT’

On the other hand, Sidhu, confident of edging out his competition, promised to accept whatever Rahul Gandhi’s decision would be on the CM face. However, after the decision was made, he was said to have gone “silent”. His Twitter handle did not record an activity the next day after Rahul Gandhi declared Channi as the CM face.

In the same Ludhiana rally where the CM face decision was announced, Sidhu let his frustration and anger out on the MLAs, saying that they would be denied the plum positions of chairpersonship-by-proxy of various committees of the government. In his threat to the MLAs, Sidhu wrapped a message for Rahul Gandhi as well.

Sidhu said, “No MLAs will get the chairmanship if I remain the Punjab Congress Committee president and if I am the true son of my mother. Congress workers will get that position, 4,000 workers will get that.”

READ | Punjab polls: Sidhu hails Channi’s candidature, calls himself ‘Punjab ka aashiq’

“I will resign the day when a person standing in front of the queue gets the post those standing in the front of the queue wearing tieswe have seen enough of that.”

“For such people, I would be the ex-minister, ex-whatever Rahulji, forgive me for saying this, one day you will be an ‘ex’ as well. But these workers will never be ex.”

NAVJOT KAUR ECHOES JAKHAR

Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur are known to sail in the same political boat. They were in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) together. They switched to the Congress ahead of the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls. Reports said denial of ticket to Navjot Kaur for the 2019 Lok Sabha election triggered Sidhu’s open rebellion against Captain Amarinder Singh. They often mirror one another’s political take.

The day after Rahul Gandhi picked Channi over Sidhu for the Punjab election, Navjot Kaur’s “AAP Exclusive” interview appeared on social media. An AAP functional shared her interview on Twitter on Monday with Navjot Kaur, echoing what Sunil Jakhar told Rahul Gandhi on Sunday.

Navjot Kaur said, “Today in Punjab, there is the strongest wave favoring the Aam Aadmi Party.”

She said the people of Punjab were frustrated with the system of the Congress party. At the end of the clip, when the interviewer asked Navjot Kaur, who she would appeal to vote for, she said, “The Aam Aadmi Party, definitely the Aam Aadmi Party.”

Sidhu lost another face-off with Channi as the Congress dropped from the list of star campaigners for the February 23-phase of Uttar Pradesh polls. Channi made it to the list.

Rahul Gandhi may have found a face in Channi who could help the Congress seek Dalit votes in Uttar Pradesh. However, Channi and the Congress may find ‘civil non-cooperation’ from Sidhu, Kaur and Jakhar coming in the way of solving Rahul Gandhi’s Punjab problem.

WATCH | Are poll surveys important to decide CM face? Navjot Kaur Sidhu says it’s party’s strategy

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