CHANDIGARH : The Punjab had its Dalit chief prime minister on Sunday, with Congress electing three-time provincial deputy Charanjit Singh Channi as head of the legislative party.
His name was announced on Twitter by Punjab affairs official Harish Rawat after a series of meetings and direct comments gathered by central observers Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary of MPs.
“It gives me great pleasure to announce that Sh. Charanjit Singh Channi has been unanimously elected to head the Punjab PLC,” Rawat tweeted.
The new leader was appointed a day after Capt Amarinder Singh resigned from his post. “My best wishes to Charanjit Singh Channi. I hope he will be able to maintain the security of the border state of Punjab and protect our people from the growing threat to security across the border, “said the former CM, wishing his successor.
Channi represents the constituency of Chamkaur Sahib in the National Assembly. Amarinder’s relations with Channi were difficult throughout his tenure, and the latter was among the cabinet ministers who rebelled against him.
Accompanied by Rawat, central observers and several ministers, Channi met Governor Banwarilal Purohit at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh on Sunday evening and claimed responsibility for the formation of the government. “The swearing-in ceremony will take place at 11 am on Monday,” Channi told reporters after the meeting.
His appointment is presented by some party leaders as a “strategic measure” to counter attempts by rival Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) to woo Dalit voters. The BJP has already said that if it votes for power in the state in next year’s parliamentary elections, it will have a Dalit CM. The SAD has entered into an electoral alliance with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), with the promise to choose a community chief deputy if they get the numbers to form government in 2022.
At 32%, Dalits make up almost a third of the state’s population, the highest in the country.
The surprise announcement of Channi’s name came after hours of heated talks that saw the balance tilt in favor of different leaders in the party leadership’s quest for consensus, with some party MPs at one point saying even cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa as the next CM.
The past 24 hours have been full of dramatic twists and turns as the name of former state unit chairman Sunil Jakhar was nearly finalized on Saturday evening with the backing of former congress leader Rahul Gandhi.
However, the party did not announce it after some MPs, who met Rawat and the two central observers on the sidelines of the PLC meeting on Saturday, pushed for a Sikh chief minister.
The Punjab has never had a non-Sikh CM since the reorganization of the state in 1966.
A few others pointed out that the new leader should be among the MPs. We learn that Jakhar, who is not an MP, was subsequently offered the post of deputy chief minister, which he refused.
Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with TBEN. Download our app now !!