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Far away in Canada and US, absent Channi remains mum on kin trouble

Sources in the Congress said that after the poll rout – including his own defeat from both the constituencies he contested from, Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur – Channi has gone into a “self-imposed” political exile.

Following the Congress Assembly poll loss, getting only 18 of 117 seats, Channi had told the media that he would “keep doing my duty towards the public”, and be among them. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

To those waiting to see if former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi would end his long hiatus from public over the Health Minister pulling up his sister-in-law and transferring her, he disappointed them again.

Four months after the Channi government was voted out of power in the Assembly elections that were swept by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Dalit leader, who for a while sparked Congress hopes in the state, remains missing without a trace – including on the ground, and even in statements or reactions to political developments.

Sources in the Congress said that after the poll rout – including his own defeat from both the constituencies he contested from, Chamkaur Sahib and Bhadaur – Channi has gone into a “self-imposed” political exile. According to some leaders, he was abroad and was in touch with a few colleagues.

“Earlier, he was in the US. Now, he is in Canada. He has not returned. He calls up a few colleagues sometimes and talks about the party’s activities. The other day, he called up a Punjab PCC leader and assured him he would be back soon and would be back in the loop,” a source said.

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Channi was also missing from the crucial Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll, eventually won by SAD (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann. “We were hoping he would be back for the by-election. The electorate in Sangrur was sending signals that AAP would lose (the seat was won by AAP’s Bhagwant Singh Mann the last two times). This was the best time for the Congress to have struck. Channi was expected, after all he is our former CM. But he did not turn up,” a party leader said.

Another leader said they also expected him to turn up following the murder of Sidhu Moosewala. “Channi had inducted him into the party. But PCC chief Amrinder Singh Raja Warring handled the Congress part. He was by the side of Moosewala’s parents.”

Instead, Channi surfaced via Twitter both times. He posted congratulations to Simranjit Singh Mann over his Sangrur win, as well as offered his condolences on Moosewala’s murder via the social media site.

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Following the Congress Assembly poll loss, getting only 18 of 117 seats, Channi had told the media that he would “keep doing my duty towards the public”, and be among them.

On Channi not being given any post in the PCC yet, a leader in the know said it would happen soon. “We are in the process of constituting our body. Several appointments have been made. A number of party seniors are yet to be accommodated, Channi will figure in the list at some point,” the leader said.

Ahead of the elections, Channi’s nephew had been slapped with a probe notice by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) over an illegal sand mining case. He was later arrested. Channi too faced questioning by the ED.

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Now, in his doctor sister-in-law Maninder Kaur’s case, who was pulled up by Health Minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra and later transferred from Civil Hospital, Kharar, to Dhanaula in Barnala, Channi has been silent.

For the Congress, this is a double whammy. While a surprise choice as replacement for Amarinder Singh, and picked largely for the Dalit tag, Channi had hit the ground running, connecting with the people and infusing some energy into the party ranks.

The Indian Express reached out to the Congress regarding Channi’s whereabouts. The party refused to respond.

First published on: 04-08-2022 at 04:19:05 pm
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