Ludhiana: Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced in Ludhiana on Sunday that Charanjit Channi is the presumptive chief minister of Punjab. He told the people of Punjab some days ago that he would come up with a name of the chief ministerial candidate. He kept his promise and revealed the name that was finalized by Congress president Sonia Gandhi after due deliberations with Punjab Congress leaders. Rahul had PCC president Navjot Sidhu on one side and Chief Minister Charanjit Channi on the other side while making the announcement. He tried once again to broker peace between Sidhu and Channi who have been at loggerheads.
Rahul said it was not his decision. “I have not decided about it. I have asked the people of Punjab. Youth, members of working committee were also consulted. I may have an opinion. But your opinion is more important than mine. Punjab told us that we need a person who can understand the poor,” said Rahul. A telepoll was conducted just on the same lines as AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal. Channi and Sidhu had a running battle since the former was appointed chief minister in place of Captain Amarider Singh who was sacked.
Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that he was forced to make a decision after consulting the party workers. He told a meeting on Januray 27, “Normally, we do not declare a Chief Minister face but if Congress workers want, we will select a face as well. But we will consult Congress workers. They will decide.” Even after Rahul made this statement Sidhu has been attacking the chief minister. “Any chief minister’s choice should have backing of 60 MLAs,” said Sidhu the other day.
Channi proved to be an able leader
In the last few months after being made the chief minister, Channi was dealing with Sidhu adroitly without giving scope to public exhibition of differences from his side although Sidhu has been on attacking mode. Channi also proved himself a good administrator. A leader belonging to the Scheduled Caste, Channi’s selection as the chief ministerial candidate would go a long way. Even if Congress loses in Punjab, this decision of making Sidhu the CM candidate would help the party elsewhere. Sidhu was sportive enough to raise Channi’s hand in a symbol of approval.
After making Sanjeevaiah the chief minister during Nehru’s tenure and then taking him to Delhi as AICC chief and then making him union minister and further AICC president again-all in ten years, both Nehru and Indira Gandhi made it clear long ago that they are not against Dalits being given positions. In fact, Sanjeevaiah, whose birth centenary is being celebrated this year, was made AICC president twice- during Nehru’s tenure as well as Indira Gandhi’s. Nehru made him chief minister as well as Congress chief.
A game-changer in Punjab?
Rahul Gandhi followed his excellent speech in Parliament with this decision to make a Dalit Chief Minister the face of the party in the ensuing elections despite having a powerful leader in Sidhu. It is something extraordinary in Congress standards. The decision taken by the Congress high command, for once, is one hundred percent correct. At least in Punjab where Dalits are more than 32 per cent of population it makes robust sense. The decision taken in the run up to assembly elections in four other States besides Punjab is sure to help the party in projecting itself as pro-Dalit all over the country. It is one sure step in the process of claiming Dalits back into the Congress fold. Why? It could be a game-changer even in Punjab.