Charanjit Channi Almost Final As Congress' CM Face, Will Contest from Two Seats
Charanjit Channi will be contesting the Punjab polls from two seats—Bhadaur and Chamkair Sahib.
Charanjit Singh Channi could be announced as the Congress' chief ministerial face in the Punjab, sources have indicated to The Quint.
The Punjab Congress put out their final list of candidates and their seats for the upcoming state assembly elections. Channi will be contesting from two seats in Bhadaur and Chamkaur Sahib.
"It is almost confirmed, a few modalities are still to be worked out," a highly placed source in the Congress told The Quint.
The modalities include a respectable power-sharing arrangement with the other major probable for the chief minister's (CM)'s position – Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu. The timing of the formal announcement is also being worked out.
According to the source, the choice for the party wasn't between Channi and Sidhu but between declaring Channi as the face now and leaving the decision for after the elections.
But different leaders from the Punjab unit are said to have communicated to former Congress president Rahul Gandhi during his visit to Punjab that it is absolutely essential for the party to declare a chief ministerial face. This urgency may also have been due to the Aam Aadmi Party recently declaring Bhagwant Mann as its CM candidate.
Rahul Gandhi's tweet on 27 January made it clear that the Congress may announce a face in advance.
"Channi ji, Sidhu ji, people of Punjab and Congress workers want us to declare a CM candidate. I promise that soon we will put a name of everyone's choice in front of you. All other leaders of Punjab and I together will strengthen the new government," Gandhi tweeted.
Of course, there could still be many a slip between the cup and the lip but there are strong reasons why the Congress could be tilting towards naming Channi.
1. He is by far the most popular Congress leader in the state. Several opinion polls and the party's own internal surveys have shown that Channi is ahead of not just other Congress leaders but also rivals from other parties like Bhagwant Mann and Sukhbir Badal as a chief ministerial face.
2. In a short period of time, Channi has helped rescue Congress from what appeared to be a certain defeat when a hugely unpopular Captain Amarinder Singh was at the helm.
3. There is a fear in the Congress that not declaring Channi would send a wrong signal among Dalits that there's a chance that he may not be made CM if the party wins the election. AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal has already been alleging that the Congress could repeat what it did in Maharashtra in 2009 when it went into the elections under the leadership of a Dalit CM Sushilkumar Shinde but, after winning, it made Maratha leader Vilasrao Deshmukh the CM.
4. The party also wants to showcase the appointment of Punjab's first Dalit CM in its efforts to reach out to Dalits in other states as well. The party's topmost leader in Uttarakhand Harish Rawat has been emphasising on Channi's appointment as CM and his own role in the matter as the Congress' in-charge for Punjab. This appeared to be aimed at the sizeable Dalit vote in Uttarakhand. The party may also try to leverage this in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh.
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