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Will Sidhu continue to trouble Channi or has he been tamed?

by | Feb 7, 2022 | Elections 2022, Punjab 2022

By accepting the Congress high command's decision to name CM Channi as the face of the 2022 elections, Sidhu has reconciled to the reality.
Rahul Gandhi, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Charanjit Singh Channi, and Sunil Jakhar at the Congress party campaign rally.

Hours before former Congress president Rahul Gandhi announced incumbent Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi as the party’s face for the February 20 assembly elections, state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu issued a statement that he would abide by the high command’s decision. 

This was days after he had upped the ante on the issue and attacked everyone, including the Congress leadership and even Channi. 

Sidhu alleged that the people at the top in the party want a weak chief minister who would dance to their tune, and apparently alluded to Channi by calling him the “mafia protector-in-chief”. 

Prior to making these remarks, he even went to the extent of claiming that the people of Punjab and not the Congress high command would decide on the chief ministerial candidate. 

Why this sudden change? 

Sidhu shares a good rapport with both Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and it is quite possible that the brother-sister duo could have spoken to him in their bid to pacify him to accept Channi as the face of the party in the larger interest of the party. 

The Congress would have suffered a massive backlash across the country had it denied Channi, a Dalit Sikh, another chance to head the government after his 111-day stint as the chief minister. The chief minister, in fact, was able to negate to a certain extent the anti-incumbency against his predecessor Captain Amarinder Singh, who has joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) after his unceremonious departure from the Congress. 

The move would have also given the Congress party’s rivals a handle to attack it on this sensitive issue. 

Before making the announcement, Rahul Gandhi reportedly met Sidhu separately to assure him that his agenda would be fully implemented in Punjab if he accepts Channi as the party’s chief ministerial candidate.

He made Sidhu sit with Channi in the back seat and sat in the front in the vehicle driven by former Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar as all of them proceeded to a resort in Ludhiana to evolve a consensus. 

In his speech, Rahul Gandhi made it a point to lavish praise on Sidhu and even reminded him that they had met 40 years ago during a match between the cricket teams of their respective schools in which the former Indian opener took six wickets and scored 98 runs.

Channi too told him that the Congress government, if it retains power, would implement his vision for Punjab. 

On his part, Sidhu assured the Congress candidates that those who do not find a berth in the council of ministers would be accommodated in various corporations and committees. 

It seemed a happy ending but will it last is the question on everybody’s mind in Punjab.

Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
Aurangzeb Naqshbandi
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