Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi will contest from a second seat, Bhadaur in Barnala district as well in the upcoming Punjab assembly polls, besides his traditional seat of Chamkaur Sahib in Ropar district. Both seats, however, fall in the state’s Malwar region.
On Sunday (January 30), the Congress party released a list of eight candidates, from which it became clear that Channi will be contesting from two seats in this state election. Earlier, he was declared as the candidate from Chamkaur Sahib, the constituency he has been representing for over a decade.
Political observers felt that this move by Channi to stand from Bhadaur, an unchartered territory for the Congress, is probably being done with an eye to consolidate support for the Congress among the Mazhabi Dalits, one of the prominent five SC sub-castes in Punjab. (The ‘Chamar’, ‘Ad-dharmi’, ‘Balmiki’, ‘Mazhabi’ and ‘Rai Sikh’ are five key SC sub-castes, which alone constitute around 80 per cent of the SC population in the state).
Channi is also probably trying to win over the Dalits from Barnala district, which has become an AAP bastion of late. Barnala district has been voting for the AAP in substantial numbers. In fact, AAP had won all three assembly segments of Barnala in 2017, while the Congress got only 20 per cent of the votes in the district. Congress has fielded the former Union minister Pawan Bansal’s son, Manish Bansal from Barnala (town) constituency.
While Sidhu confidant, former Patiala mayor and known political turncoat Vishnu Sharma has been fielded against former Punjab CM and ex-Congress stalwart Amarinder Singh in Patiala. Sharma, who had started his political career with the Congress, hopped to the Akali Dal and is back with the Congress now.
This most recent development has come after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was cornered by both Channi and Navjot Sidhu to announce a CM candidate, said that it is not the party tradition but if the party, its workers or Punjab wants it, then the Congress would take a decision on the chief ministerial face by consulting their workers and the right person would lead Punjab.
“See, two people can’t lead. Only one will lead. Both of them promised me that the other person will commit to helping whoever becomes the CM face,” added Rahul Gandhi, according to news reports.
As the Congress seeks to retain power in Punjab, both Channi and Punjab Congress chief Navjot Sidhu are said to be contenders for the top job. Though Channi has been in the CM seat only for the last few months as a stop-gap arrangement, there is support gaining ground in favour of Channi as the next CM, pointed out reports.
But as Channi is all set to contest from two seats, he is considered to be the most likely CM candidate for the Congress. Meanwhile, even as Channi is taking swipes at the drinking problem of the AAP CM candidate, Bhagwant Mann, Arvind Kejriwal reacted on Twitter to Channi contesting from two seats by stating that his party’s survey found out that Channi is going to lose from Chamkaur Sahib. Does this mean that the survey was true? he asked, making a dig at Channi standing from two places to ensure he gets elected.