The improbable rise of Charanjit Singh Channi: Punjab’s new CM

Interestingly, Charanjit Singh Channi was not supposed to be the new CM. He wasn’t the Congress’ high command’s first choice initially. Yet, he was chosen mainly to appease the mammoth 32% Dalit vote bank. It was their way to upstage parties like AAP and Shiromani Akali Dal who had promised a Dalit deputy chief minister if voted to power.

It is a message that while all other parties are announcing that Dalits would be given important positions if they form the government in 2022, we have already done that,” a Congress leader was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.


Channi started out as a student leader and rose through the ranks in Congress party by connecting well with the masses. Before this, he was the Minister of Technical Education and Industrial Training as part of former CM Capt. Amrinder Singh’s cabinet. His humble nature made him drive his own car and always pay toll tax. Such was his simplicity that he came riding pillion on a motorbike to Punjab Bhawan.


A keen academic, Channi has two postgraduate degrees – one in Business Administration and one in Political Science. He said that he studies for the love of education and not for the degrees.


His wife Kamaljeet Singh is a doctor and the couple has two children. Their first child – Navjeet Singh – is currently pursuing law.


The challenges in front of Channi


With great power comes great responsibility and Channi has his work cut out for the next few months. The biggest challenge will be to unite the Congress party as leaders like Om Prakash Soni, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Navjot Singh Sidhu were hoping to become CM instead of Channi.


Channi also has to solve the farmer crisis which has been going on for a long time. Suppressing the laws proposed by the Central Government is an option – but how soon will it happen? That remains unanswered.


Punjab is also struggling with a drug problem. “Drugs are a structural issue. They involve local politicians as well as international cartels. Similarly, the cases of sacrilege are in the court. It will be naïve to think of a resolution in just three to four months,” said Prof Jagroop Sekhon (a political science expert in Punjab University) in an interview with The Indian Express.


The Navjot Singh Sidhu case


Sidhu has been extremely vocal about every issue and that hasn’t earned him many fans. Still, according to AICC chief Harish Rawat, he’ll be made the head of Congress party in Punjab.

The decision hasn’t gone down well with senior leader Sunil Jakhar. He tweeted, “On the swearing-in day of @Charnjit_channi as Chief Minister, Mr Rawat’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.”


Even the last CM Capt. Amrinder Singh opposed Sidhu. He said that Sidhu is an anti-national element and considers Imran Khan and Pakistan Army Chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa as a friend.


Conclusion


The situation in Punjab right now is volatile with farmer protests and drug trafficking being major pain points. The state also needs to watch the border it shares with Pakistan. Whether or not Charanjit Singh Channi is able to resolve these issues, only time will tell. For now, we wish him all the best and hope that he succeeds in strengthening one of India’s most important states.


References:


1. Charanjit Singh Channi appointment doesn’t hurt Sidhu’s CM prospects in Punjab (Hindustan Times)

2. From nowhere to top of the list: How Charanjit Singh Channi choice was made (The Indian Express)

3. Explained: 5 challenges before new Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi (The Indian Express)

4. "Keep Punjab Safe": Amarinder Singh Greets Charanjit Singh Channi (NDTV)