'Baffled': Sunil Jakhar After Rawat Says Congress to Fight Polls Under Sidhu

Later ANI quoted Jakhar as saying that he had expressed his concern as a Congress man.

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<div class="paragraphs"><p>Sunil Kumar Jakhar</p></div>

Sunil Kumar Jakhar, the former Punjab Congress chief, who was in the reckoning for the state’s chief minister post, on Monday, 20 September, termed the Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat’s comments that the state elections will be fought under Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu as "baffling".

“On the swearing-in day of Shri Charanjit Channi as Chief Minister, Mr Rawats’s statement that “elections will be fought under Sidhu”, is baffling. It’s likely to undermine CM’s authority but also negate the very ‘raison d’être’ of his selection for this position,” he tweeted.

Later, however, ANI quoted Jakhar as saying that he had expressed his concern as a Congress man and that he believes such comments were avoidable. Further, Jakhar said: "Today, high command also announced that next poll to be fought under the combined leadership of Channi, Sidhu and under overall supervision of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi."

What Had Harish Rawat Said?

On Sunday, Rawat had said that under the current political circumstances, the upcoming assembly elections would be fought under Sidhu, who is extremely popular.

“It (Congress face for upcoming state assembly polls) will be decided by the Congress president, but given the circumstances, elections will be fought with the Chief Minister’s cabinet under Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, whose chief is Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is very popular,” news agency ANI quoted him as saying.

Channi's Appointment Seems To Be a Poll Gimmick: Mayawati

Several Opposition leaders were critical of the Congress party's move to name Channi as the new chief minister of Punjab just months before the Assembly polls.

Bahujan Samaj Party president and former CM of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, on Monday, said Channi's appointment seemed to be a gimmick.

"I congratulate Charanjit Singh Channi on becoming Punjab CM. It would have been better if he had been appointed as CM earlier. Channi's appointment as CM a few months ahead of Punjab Assembly elections appears to be a poll gimmick," she was quoted as saying by ANI.

She went on to say the Congress party does not seem to "fully trust" the Dalit community.

"I have also come to know through media that the next Punjab assembly elections will be fought under the leadership of a non-Dalit. This means that Congress still does not fully trust the Dalits. Congress is also scared of the SAD-BSP alliance in Punjab," she said.

BJP leader Priti Gandhi was also critical of the Congress party, saying the Dalit empowerment narrative was just a pretence.

"By making a public announcement that 'elections will be fought under Sidhu', the Congress is openly admitting that they have no faith in the capability of Charanjit Singh Channi. The 'Dalit empowerment' narrative by the Congress is only to fool the people of Punjab!" she tweeted.

Channi Move To Get Dalit Votes, All for Show: Punjab BJP In-Charge

Punjab BJP in-charge Dushyant Gautam said that appointing Channi as CM was a move by Congress to get Dalit votes and was all for show.

"A conspiracy is being hatched to rob Dalit votes by appointing a Dalit CM (in Punjab). It seems that this is Congress' old habit. They think that by appointing a CM for 3-4 months, they'll get entire vote bank of Dalits. This is all for show," he was quoted as saying by ANI.

"Congress has done this before as well. They get the votes of Dalits but they place their own leaders for governance. When it comes to respecting Dalits, they're insulted & thrown out of party. This happened in case of Dr BR Ambedkar," he added.

BJP leader Amit Malviya also took to social media and said Channi had been made the CM only to hold the seat for Sidhu, which is a huge insult to the entire Dalit community.

“This is a huge insult to the entire Dalit community if Charanjit Singh Channi has been made the CM, only to hold the seat for Navjot Singh Sidhu, the chosen Gandhi family loyalist. This completely undermines the Dalit empowerment narrative being peddled by the Congress. Shame,” he said.


'Only Jakhar Can Comment on the Statement He Has Made'

Meanwhile, reacting to Jakhar’s tweet, Congress leader Harminder Singh Gill said, “Only he (Sunil Jakhar) can comment on the statement he has made. This decision (Charanjit Channi as CM) is party high command’s decision, not just Harish Rawat Ji’s decision.”

Earlier, The Indian Express reported that Jakhar refused to be appointed deputy CM on Sunday.

Two Congress workers had called up Jakhar even before the party had announced Channi’s name as the new CM of Punjab and offered him the post of deputy CM. Jakhar refused the post both times, saying he was not ‘hankering for any post’, reported the daily. However, he also said he would never quit the Congress party.

(With inputs from ANI and The Indian Express.)

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