Updated: September 21, 2021 7:04:59 am
A three-time MLA, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa comes from a dyed-in-the-wool Congress family. His father, Santokh Singh, remained Punjab Congress president for two terms and is well-known figure in the Majha region. During Operation Blue Star in 1984, Randhawa was among a handful of leaders in Punjab who stood by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The 62-year-old, who represents Dera Baba Nanak Assembly constituency, however, is known as a man with his own politics. He was first elected from the Fatehgarh Churian Assembly constituency in 2002 before shifting to Dera Baba Nanak, a constituency in Majha touching the India-Pakistan border, in 2012 from where he won, repeating the feat in 2017.
Randhawa, who held the jails and cooperation portfolio in Capt Amarinder Singh’s council of ministers, is considered a strong Panthic leader in the Congress despite the baggage of 1984. He has often spoken his mind on the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Akal Takht affairs and other Sikh issues.
Before taking sides with incumbent state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu in latter’s tussle with Amarinder, Randhawa was considered a close confidante of the now ousted CM. Ahead of the 2017 Assembly election, Randhawa had extended support to Amarinder and played an important role in getting Partap Singh Bajwa, also a leader from Majha and now a Rajya Sabha member, ousted from the post of state Congress chief. Amarinder was appointed the PCC chief and is credited with party’s landslide win in 2017 polls. However, it is Randhawa who is credited with party’s stupendous show in Majha region where Congress won 22 out of 25 seats in the region comprising four major districts of Amritsar, Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran.
Randhawa is among the few Congress leaders in Majha region who have openly spoken against Shiromani Akali Dal leader Bikram Singh Majithia during the Akali-BJP government. Amarinder was accused of going soft on Majithia despite forming the government with a brute majority in 2017. Majithia continued to target Randhawa who played a leading role in making 33 Congress MLAs write a letter to Amarinder demanding action against the Akali leade. Unlike other MLAs, he never compromised with Amarinder over allegations against Majithia, and it became one of reasons behind the differences between them.
In 2018, religious organisations had set up a morcha in Bargari demanding action in the 2015 sacrilege cases. The protests, led by Jathedar Dhian Singh Man, posed a challenge for the Congress government in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. Randhawa was one of the ministers who negotiated with Mand and got him to lift the protest that lasted four months.
Not one to mince words, Randhawa expressed anger at the alleged inaction of his own party’s government on various issues, including sacrilege cases. While Sidhu remained mostly silent after the 2019 parliamentary elections, Randhawa held the fort against Amarinder, risking his own berth in the Cabinet.
It is interesting that both Amarinder and Sidhu stood in the way of Randhawa becoming the chief minister and forced the party high command to settle on the name of Charanjit Singh Channi on Sunday.
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