How CM Channi will disrupt Punjab politics
Channi as Punjab CM is a gamble for the Congress, with an eye on caste. Will they pull it off in 2022?
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The selection of Charanjit Singh Channi as the new Chief Minister of Punjab holds deeper political implications than he being the first Dalit CM of Punjab, a post long under the monopoly of Jat Sikhs. Channi on the CM’s chair is a strategic move by the Punjab Congress; one that will benefit the party ahead of the 2022 polls.
By the numbers: The Dalit population, highest in Punjab, is 32-35%. Then there are the Jat Sikhs, who constitute 25% of the population of Punjab. With Navjot Singh Sindhu, a Jat Sikh as the PCC Chief, and Charanjit Channi, a Dalit Sikh as the head of the state, Congress can be seen actively vying for support from both the prominent factions in Punjab. This combination is expected to favour the Congress much more than the Jat Sikh duo of Capt. Amarinder Singh and Sidhu could have.
Congress’s longtime opposition in the state, Shiromani Akali Dal, who have joined hands with BSP, have promised the people a Dalit deputy chief minister if they are voted in. The Aam Aadmi Party has also promised the same - a Dalit deputy chief minister - if they win 2022. By placing Channi as CM in the seat vacated by Capt. Amarinder Singh, Congress has managed to upstage its entire opposition.
Charanjit Singh Channi at a cycle rally. Photo: Press Trust India
The appeal: An advocate of education, Channi’s story has always resonated with the youth of Punjab. As minister for technical education, he has overseen job fairs and opening of new colleges and skilling centres. Congress hopes Channi’s forte in education will help attract the youth of Punjab.
The hurdles: Yet, the appointment of Channi as Punjab CM has not been without its hurdles. He has a #MeToo accusation against him from November 2018, which the NCW and BJP are both tearing into him for.
Road ahead: For Channi, the test lies in being able to consolidate the vote bank in Punjab ahead of 2022. There’s also the Amarinder question: joining the BJP is an option.
The O: Channi as Punjab CM is a gamble for the Congress, with an eye on caste. Will they pull it off in 2022?