At a time when the Punjab based psephologists have predicted a fractured mandate, the incumbent Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi seems to have stonewalled himself for a spiritual pursuit at an undisclosed location, sources told Outlook this morning.
“He is not meeting anybody till March 4,” a personal assistant with the chief minister said in response to a request for a short meeting with the chief minister for an interview. He indicated that the chief minister will be available to the public and press from March 5 onwards.
Asked if the chief minister was in Punjab or he had gone out of the state, he replied, “I can’t disclose it at the moment. I don’t have orders from the higher-ups. I can only say that he is meditating right now.”
While persons close to CM Channi were tight-lipped regarding his whereabouts, Outlook tried to contact Channi’s son, Navjit Singh, but his cell phone was switched off. Phone calls to the chief minister’s personal cell number didn’t evoke any response whereas the person who attended the phone call at CM’s residence said he wasn’t aware whether the CM was in Punjab or had gone outstation. Similarly, phone calls at the chief minister’s office and “camp office” landline numbers went unanswered.
The 58-year-old Congress leader has crafted an image of a deeply religious person for himself during his short tenure as Punjab’s first Dalit chief minister. In the run-up to the state assembly election, he is known to have visited many shrines of several sects belonging to the Hindu and Sikh religions.
Following Channi’s visit to the Baglamukhi temple in Himachal Pradesh’s Kangra district in December last year, the head priest at the temple had clarified that the chief minister didn’t perform any “tantric pooja” as it was widely rumoured. “People come here for secret worship to gain victory over enemies,” the priest had told the media.
Earlier in February, CM Channi reportedly visited the shrine for the third time after becoming the chief minister and offered a mid-night prayer.
A few days later, a statement put out by the Punjab government stated that Channi and his family sought the blessings of Radha Soami Satsang Beas chief, Baba Gurinder Singh Dhillon, at their residence to serve the state and its people.
Soon after becoming the chief minister, Channi paid a visit to Dera Sach Khand, an influential socio-religious social organisation of the Ravidasia community in Jalandhar’s Ballan village in September last year.
In January this year, CM Channi spent a night at Dera Sachkhand in Ballan village near Jalandhar where he reportedly slept on the floor of Dera head Sant Niranjan Dass’s room.
Earlier this month, he had paid a late night visit to Divya Jayoti Jagriti Sansthan and spent one hour at the Sansthan.
In Punjab, other senior politicians are also known for their close association with religious personalities and faith healers. Before the outcome of the high-stakes multi-cornered electoral battle, politicians seem to be leaving no stone unturned while invoking divine intervention to improve their political fortune.
On the last day of the poll campaign on February 18, Channi’s predecessor and president of the Punjab Lok Congress, Capt. Amarinder Singh had hit the headlines for performing pooja. A viral video showed, the former chief minister donating a baby buffalo in presence of the priests as an offering to the “Shani Devta”, a personification of the planet Saturn in Hinduism.
Punjab went to polls on February 20 to elect the 117 members for state’s legislative assembly. The results are scheduled to be declared on March 10.