CHANDIGARH: Even before new Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi could take his oath of office and secrecy, AICC’s Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat let the cat out of the bag, saying the forthcoming Assembly elections would be fought under the leadership of state unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu. In other words, Channi was only a stop-gap chief minister, which undermined his office, taking the sheen off elevating a member of the SC community.
It triggered a furious backlash with former Punjab Congress President Sunil Jakhar leading the charge. Jakhar’s name was in circulation for the CM’s post till Sunday morning. He was later offered the deputy CM’s post but he rejected it.“On the swearing-in day of Sh @Charnjit_channi as Chief Minister, Mr Rawats’s statement that “elections will be fought under Sidhu”, is baffling. It’s likely to undermine CM’s authority but also negate the very ‘raison d’être’ of his selection for this position,” Jakhar tweeted.
Opposition parties like the Shiromani Akali Dal, BJP and BSP pounced on the opportunity, saying Channi’s appointment was indeed a Congress poll gimmick.Congress national spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had to step in to do damage control. “Our faces will be Charanjit Singh Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu as also ordinary Congress workers and leaders who will be supporting them,” he told reporters.
If Channi was a surprise choice for CM on Sunday, there was enough drama to identify his two deputies. Till the last moment, the name of Brahm Mohindra, a senior minister in the previous cabinet, was doing the rounds, but Sidhu penciled him out. Instead, Sidhu’s loyalist O P Soni (64) was sworn in as deputy CM along with Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (62). Mohindra’s poor health and an earlier announcement of not contesting the elections apparently went against him.