Days after a showdown between Cabinet ministers and Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh, it is now minister versus minister in Punjab.
Technical Education Minister Charanjeet Singh Channi Thursday alleged that Panchayats and Rural Development Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa had threatened him with “reopening” a case against him at the “insistence of IAS lobby” if he continued with his tirade against CS.
On Wednesday, Bhoa MLA Joginder Pal Bhoa had said that Channi had told him about Bajwa allegedly threatening him during a visit to former’s home. Confirming Bhoa MLA’s claim that Bajwa had Tuesday “advised” him to drop his campaign against the CS lest a case could be reopened against him, Channi said the incident had taken indeed taken place when Bajwa visited his residence.
“Had it not been a curfew in the state, the episode could have resulted in violence in the state. I am getting many calls. Youths are supporting me and stand with me,” he claimed.
The old case
In October 2018, Channi was caught in a row after a woman IAS officer had accused him of sending her an “inappropriate text” and complained to the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh. The CM had himself confirmed the incident to the media but had not taken any action.
Ever since, Channi, who was often seen opposed to the CM on several issues, was seen as his loyal soldier. Bajwa, on the other hand, is considered close to the Chief Minister and is his trouble-shooter. The only deviation from this point was witnessed when an important portfolio, Housing and Urban Development Department, was withdrawn from him in the last Cabinet rejig.
Channi came to my house twice’
Earlier in the day, Bajwa confirmed that he had indeed gone to Channi’s house on Tuesday. “What is wrong in this? I hold him in high regard as he is my Cabinet colleague. He came to my house twice during this issue regarding the Chief Secretary was on. I went to his house once. We had a cordial meeting. I have been on record to say that I am on Cabinet ministers’ side. If they want me to seek CS’s ouster, I stand by them. If they want to forgive him, I am with them,” he said.
Bajwa added that he had always respected Dalits. “Dalits are the backbone of Congress party. I am a dyed-in-wool Congressman. Why would I do anything of the sort?” he asked.
He had said Bhoa’s allegations were a part of local politics in Gurdapur, his home district. Bhoa is considered close to former PPCC
chief Partap Singh Bajwa. Both Bajwas are sworn political enemies despite belonging to the same party.
After Channi’s outburst, Bajwa told reporters that he had been asked by Jakhar not to respond to the allegations. “I will keep quiet. Jakhar sahib has asked me to,” he said.
‘Bid to suppress Dalit voice’
Channi, meanwhile, said that the “threat” was as an attempt to suppress him because he was a Dalit and came from poor family.
“It is a struggle for such youths to survive in politics. I have informed both the Chief Minister as well as PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar about the developments. Whatever action they deem fit, they can take,” he said.
He said the previous SAD-BJP government had also registered cases against his family. “My brother was in jail. We were asked to become approver in Capt Sahib’s case. But we stood with Captain Sahib. We were acquitted last year with him only,” he claimed.
Channi’s brother was an Engineer with Ludhiana Improvement Trust and was tried with Amarinder in the alleged multi-crore City Centre scam.
Channi said: “I swear by the land of Gobind Singh, Chamkaur Sahib (his segment) that Bajwa threatened me. I always considered Bajwa as my elder brother. But this politics of suppression should not be done. So many people have come up in my support, many MLAs have come in my support, AAP president Bhagwant Mann called, AAP leaders and Akalis also stood up in my support.”
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