By announcing Charanjit Singh Channi as the next Chief Minister of Punjab, the Congress has played a Dalit card in the state.
The Opposition parties in Punjab have been trying to woo the Dalits in the state having an SC population of 32 per cent as per the last census. The Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has already announced that their Deputy Chief Minister would be a Dalit while the BJP has declared that their Chief Minister would be from the same community.
The SAD has allied with BSP to woo the Dalits who are considered a vote bank of Mayawati’s party. Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal had also announced that if AAP wins Punjab, a Dalit would be the Deputy Chief Minister.
The Congress has apparently outsmarted them by announcing Channi’s name. “It is a message that while all other parties are announcing that Dalits would be given important positions if they form the government in 2022, we have already done that,” a party leader said.
PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, it is learnt, had told the high command that he would have no issues if a Dalit would be the next CM. He is learnt to have objected to former Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who was among the front-runners for the CM’s post. “Channi became a compromise candidate. Randhawa was objecting to former PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar’s candidature for CM’s post stating a Hindu should not be the CM of a Sikh-majority state,” a leader said.
Party general secretary-in-charge Harish Rawat said that Channi was the unanimous choice of the all party leaders. However, sources said that there were hectic lobbying against naming Channi as CM designate. Several text messages were sent to the high command from Punjab Congress warning them against Channi. The high command, however, went ahead with the decision as the Congress already has a Jat Sikh in PPCC chief Navjot Sidhu.
Former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has congratulated Channi upon being his successor. AICC leader Rahul Gandhi also congratulated Channi in a tweet and said that, “We must continue to fulfil the promises made to the people of the state. Their trust is of paramount importance.”