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Punjab Assembly elections: State unit anxious after Rahul assurance

🔴 Till a few days ago, the Congress leaders were talking about fighting the 2022 election under collective leadership, even as CM Charanjit Singh Channi and PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had started making overt demands that the CM candidate should be declared.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
Updated: January 28, 2022 8:08:04 am
Punjab Assembly elections 2022, Charanjit Singh Channi, Rahul Gandhi, Punjab Congress, Congress, punjab chief minister, punjab news, Indian Express, India news, current affairs, Indian Express News Service, Express News Service, Express News, Indian Express India NewsBut Rahul’s announcement has left the Congress worried that the declaration of CM candidate might add fuel to the fire of infighting in the party. (Express)

Former AICC chief Rahul Gandhi’s announcement that the Congress will soon declare its CM face has the left the state unit concerned about dealing with the fallout of the announcement whenever it comes.

Till a few days ago, the Congress leaders were talking about fighting the 2022 election under collective leadership, even as CM Charanjit Singh Channi and PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had started making overt demands that the CM candidate should be declared. The party had even replaced Channi’s billboards with the ones having pictures of Channi, Sidhu and former PPCC chief Sunil Kumar Jakhar.

But Rahul’s announcement has left the Congress worried that the declaration of CM candidate might add fuel to the fire of infighting in the party.

“The party will have to choose between Channi and Sidhu.  Dumping one for the other would only create problems. Whosoever is declared, the other one will not walk along the party,” a leader said.

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He added, “Although Channi said this during the rally that he would honour the decision of the party, it is for everybody to see that he will be disappointed. On the other hand, if Sidhu is ignored then you can imagine how he is going to sulk. Just look at Sidhu’s remark during the rally urging Rahul that he should not be reduced to a ‘darshani ghoda (showpiece).”

It is being debated as to how the Congress would reach its decision.

“I am sure Rahul ji has already decided. It is not that he sat in the car, as he said, and spoke to both of them. He had come prepared.”

However, Rahul’s announcement that they will seek opinion from workers made a leader to quip, “AICC has a database of about 6 lakh Congress members’ phone numbers. We have membership of about 30 lakhs though. But we can send messages to these workers and ask for their choice of CM candidate. Whosoever wins in the telephonic survey could be the CM candidate. Six lakh is a big number to get the pulse.”

Another senior party leader said that it appeared that the party had decided on Channi.

“Sidhu’s darshani ghoda remark came from there (Rahul’s rally). It appears Rahul has taken Sidhu into confidence. Even if they have not taken him into confidence, they will make the declaration at the last hour, mostly after the February 14 phase of elections. After that Sidhu will be left with very little time to sulk as he himself is pinned down in his constituency after SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia has thrown his hat in the ring from Sidhu’s segment.”

However, another senior leader said, “The Congress has to be really naive to think that they can dump Channi at this juncture. They have to be even more naive to think that the can dump him after the formation the government. It will affect the Congress prospects nationally of they will end up conveying a message that a Dalit was made a stop-gap arrangement. The Congress CM’s berth in Punjab is now SC-reserved for next many years. By naming him the CM, the Congress has got on to a tiger. The party knew how to get on a tiger, but would not know how to get off a tiger.”

He added, “As for Sidhu, the party has to be again naive to believe his word that he would accept the decision of the party. We all know whatever happened on the stage was stage-managed. But whatever is coming will not be stage managed.”

The Congress, it is learnt, is under pressure to declare its CM candidate. But as there was a problem of two aspirants for the post and party wanting to take Hindu voters on board, it was earlier decided to contest the elections on collective leadership of a Jat Sikh in Sidhu, SC in Channi, and a Hindu in Jakhar. But things changed after Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) declaring Bhagwant Mann as CM candidate.

“We have a mechanism in place to find out from our workers as to who is their choice. We are not like Aam Aadmi Party who will do a drama of giving a phone number and getting the feedback,” a senior leader said on the condition of anonymity.

On if Rahul had left the Congress worried, he said, “Why would the Congress worry. Both Sidhu and Channi promised to the people of Punjab from the rally that they will be with the decision of the party. It is a promise with the people of Punjab and not with the Congress. If anybody goes back on his promise, he is answerable to people of Punjab.”

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