Updated: January 18, 2022 4:05:14 pm
Amid a bitter power struggle between Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, the Congress on Monday put out a video on its official Twitter handle virtually projecting Channi as its chief minister face.
The move also comes a day before the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which is seen as the Congress’s main challenger in the state, is set to announce its chief ministerial candidate. Sources in the Congress said the video was not put out “just like that” and argued it was part of a “calibrated” strategy.
The Congress, party sources said, believes Channi is its “best bet” in Punjab.
“Nothing happens on its own,” a senior leader told The Indian Express.
Best of Express Premium
बोल रहा पंजाब, अब पंजे के साथ- मजबूत करेंगे हर हाथ। pic.twitter.com/qQOZpnKItd
— Congress (@INCIndia) January 17, 2022
Sources said the party was for now projecting Channi as the leader. “That is the reason the official handle of the Congress tweeted the video. Channi is popular in the surveys. He has transitioned as a political leader ever since he took over as CM,” a senior party leader told The Indian Express.
Another leader said the Congress cannot, as of now, announce Channi as the CM face given the CM aspirants in Goa and Uttarakhand. “Harish Rawat wants the party to announce him as the CM face and Digambar Kamat too is eager. So, we cannot project Channi officially but the signals are clear. He is our best bet and if the party returns to power, it will be largely because of him,” the leader said.
In 2017, in a rare move, the party had announced Amarinder Singh as its chief ministerial face, but barely a week before voting.
Asked whether the party would now spell out in clear terms that Channi will be the Chief Minister again if the party is voted back to power, a leader merely said, “Let’s see. The Election Commission has deferred voting in Punjab to February 20. Now there is gap between voting in Goa and Uttarakhand, and Punjab.”
The video, shot with agricultural fields in the background, has Bollywood actor-turned-philanthropist Sonu Sood saying “the real Chief Minister is the one who is brought to the chair, not the one who has to struggle to reach there, not the one who has to say that he is the CM candidate and that he deserves it”. The real CM, Sood goes on to say, should be a “back-bencher who should be brought to the forefront and told that he will be the CM. Only such a person can bring about change”.
The 36-second video has Channi making an appearance 12 times. No other leader is seen in the video, except for Amritsar MP G S Aujla who appears for a brief second. Sidhu does not appear in the video at all. There are visuals of Channi walking, draping his shawl, squatting on the floor and eating makki di roti and sarson da saag.
When asked about the video and whether Channi was being projected as the party’s CM face, AICC secretary in-charge Harish Chaudhary, however, said, “We will fight the elections under a collective leadership. We have already said that.” To a question if the decision could be changed, he said, “There is nothing permanent in politics. But the party has made it clear that the election will be fought collectively.”
The video has, predictably enough, created a political furore in the faction-ridden party.
An aide of Channi said the video was a message to Sidhu, who was pushing to be announced as the CM candidate. “You heard what Sonu Sood is saying in the video — that a natural CM candidate does not have to struggle.”
A leader close to Sidhu, however, said there was nothing much to read in the video.
The video also comes amid a string of comments in favour of Channi as the party’s CM face.
On Monday, Cabinet minister Rana Gurjit Singh said Channi has done a “great job” in just three months and that raising a question mark about his continuation as CM can prove to be counterproductive.
“When you already have a Chief Minister who is doing a great job, why put a question mark about his continuation after winning the elections?” he asked while asserting that it would be unfair to Channi to make him lead the party in the elections and then keep him on tenterhooks about his future position.
The party had settled the issue of chief ministership three months ago, he said, adding that there is no need for any further debates or discussions.
“When you have a tried and tested CM who has proved his mettle in a brief period of three months, why do you want to experiment with someone unknown and untested?” he asked.
A day earlier, on Sunday, Hardev Singh Laddi Sherowalia, the party’s sitting MLA from Shahkot, had demanded that Channi be announced as CM candidate.
“It is a sustained campaign now. The leaders have seen the popularity of Channi. That is why these kinds of statements are appearing,” a leader said.
🗞 Subscribe Now: Get Express Premium to access our in-depth reporting, explainers and opinions 🗞️
- The Indian Express website has been rated GREEN for its credibility and trustworthiness by Newsguard, a global service that rates news sources for their journalistic standards.