Just two weeks ahead of Assembly polls in the Congress-ruled Punjab, party leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday announced incumbent Charanjit Singh Channi as the party’s chief ministerial face for the polls.
State party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was in the race, hugged Channi on the stage as Gandhi announced his name after over 45 minutes of his speech, televised across the 117 Assembly seats.
Political observers believe the decision of the Congress to go to the polls in the state, which is witnessing a five-cornered contest, under the leadership of Channi, the state’s first Dalit Chief Minister, is to woo the Dalit Sikh votes that are 32 per cent in the state.
“It is Punjab’s decision. It is not my decision. I didn’t decide. I asked workers, candidates, MLAs, people, youth of Punjab. What people said has led me to my final decision,” said Gandhi during his address at the ‘Aawaz Punjab Di’ virtual rally.
He praised Channi for his humble background.
Getting emotional on the announcement of his name, Channi said that he has always been honest, never took a penny from anyone, and will continue to work honestly.
The Congress announcement of the CM’s face came after the AAP declared comedian-turned-politician Bhagwant Mann as its Chief Ministerial candidate.
The Congress high command was cautious about announcing the name as it has the potential to create trouble for the party.
In the 2017 Punjab Assembly polls, ending all speculation with just a week to go before the election, then party Vice President Rahul Gandhi had announced that Amarinder Singh would head the government if the Congress was voted to power.
This time the key opponents in the state — the AAP, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD)-Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) combine and the BJP in alliance with Amarinder Singh’s new party Punjab Lok Congress and the Samyukt Samaj Morcha, the fledging coalition of farm unions — are making an issue out of the Congress CM’s face.
Now the prominent faces for the parties are Channi, 58, Mann, 48, Sukhbir Singh Badal, 59, Amarinder Singh, 80, (his name not announced by the alliance), and Balbir Singh Rajewal, 78.