Charanjit Singh Channi takes oath as chief minister of Punjab

On a day of high political drama that saw the name of Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, another three-term MLA, proposed for the top job, Channi finally emerged as the consensus candidate

Three-time MLA Charanjit Singh Channi was sworn in as the new Chief Minister of Punjab on Monday. The function was attended by Rahul Gandhi. Sukhjinder Randhawa and OP Soni also took oath as Deputy Chief Ministers. Channi’s appointment came after Amarinder Singh quit the top post on Saturday.

The ruling Congress on Sunday (September 19) had named Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit leader, as leader of its legislative party, paving the way for his appointment as the chief minister.

Channi emerged as the consensus candidate on a day of high political drama that saw the name of Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, another three-term MLA, proposed for the top job. Channi is known to be close to Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Harish Rawat tweeted: “It gives me immense pleasure to announce that Sh. #CharanjitSinghChanni has been unanimously elected as the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party of Punjab.”

Randhawa used to be among former CM Amarinder Singh’s closest people till 2017, but the two became rivals after the Congress came to power and Amarinder did not induct him in the first cabinet. 

Randhawa was made a minister a year later, but for the “inconsequential” portfolios of jails and cooperation. Over the past year he became a vocal Amarinder critic and warmed up to cricketer-turned politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, a known Amarinder baiter. 

Sidhu, who was appointed state PCC chief recently, and Randhawa both belong to the same community as Amarinder – the Jat Sikhs.

According to sources, Sidhu felt that, had the Congress made Randhawa CM, and won the assembly election next year, then he would likely not have given up the post easily. In such a situation the party would have found it difficult to sack another Jat Sikh so soon.

Channi has always been an Amarinder critic. He had won his first election in 2007 as an independent candidate, is a popular Dalit face from the state’s electorally important Malwa region, which is also where the Akalis and AAP are strong. Dalits constitute 32 per cent of Punjab’s population, holding sway in about 35-40 assembly seats. Channi will be the state’s first Dalit CM. The AAP and the Akalis have both been promising a Dalit deputy CM if voted to power.

Also read: How Amarinder Singh went from Punjab’s Captain to Captain Cooked

Channi was the minister for technical education in the Amarinder cabinet. He served as Leader of the Opposition between 2015 and 2016.

His assembly constituency is Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district, which also has social and religious significance for Punjabis, especially the Dalits and the Sikhs.

Channi’s appointment also seems to factor in the pre-poll alliance between the Akalis and Mayawati’s BSP in Punjab. The Akali-BSP alliance could have helped the two parties to spoil the Congress’s chances in Dalit-dominated seats. The last time the Akalis and the BSP had an alliance in Punjab was during the 1996 Lok Sabha polls when the Jat Sikh-Dalit-Dalit Sikh vote consolidation helped the two parties sweep 11 of the state’s 13 seats.