What led the Congress High Command to choose Charanjit Singh Channi as the chief minister of Punjab from a list of top contenders including Sunil Jakhar, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawaand and even Navjot Singh Sidhu among others.
Sources say as per the feedback of 65 MLAs shared through party observers Ajay Maken and Harish Chaudhary with party high command, former PCC chief Sunil Jakhar was the first choice and had the maximum support of legislators. But his not being a turbaned Sikh worked against him.
Randhawa a Jat Sikh, took oath as Deputy CM.
The game changed in the last minutes as the names for the CM and Deputy CMs changed in the last 24 hours. Earlier, Capt Amarinder Singh’s aide Braham Mohindra was named as Deputy CM as AICC treasurer Pawan Bansal also tweeted last late night.
“Heartiest congratulations to @Charnjit_channi for elevation as #PunjabCM and @BrahmMohindra & @Sukhjinder_INC as Dy CMs,” Bansal had tweeted.
But, just a few minutes before oath-taking ceremony Mohindra was replaced by OP Soni, who is also close to Amarinder Singh.
Bansal corrected himself in a new tweet. “My regrets for yesterday’s tweet,based on an incorrect information.And heartiest congratulations to @Om_Parkash_Soni ji for taking oath as Dy.CM,” he tweeted.
Heartiest congratulations to @Charnjit_channi for elevation as #PunjabCM and @BrahmMohindra & @Sukhjinder_INC as Dy CMs. Best wishes for their grand success in the service of Punjab under the leadership of Smt.Sonia Gandhi and Sh.@RahulGandhi.— Pawan Kumar Bansal (@pawanbansal_chd) September 19, 2021
While the party observers camping at JW Marriott hotel in Chandigarh decided to go ahead with Randhawa as the CM, the objection came from Navjot Singh Sidhu, who wished to become CM himself as a Jat Sikh face.
Sidhu felt that Randhawa is too senior and blunt to listen to him after becoming CM and may not be that easy to dislodge come 2022. Thus, Randhawa was out of the race. But Sidhu was curtly told by Ajay Maken that he was already PCC chief and cannot have everything.
On Sunday afternoon, Sidhu was apparently on his way to Patiala when he learnt that the party had finalised the name of Charanjit Singh Channi for the CM post. Sidhu then returned mid-way to the hotel, satisfied with Channi, who is younger to him, and everyone accepted the decision. Randhawa also accepted Channi, saying he was like his younger brother.
Manpreet Badal pitched Channi, his close friend, as a game changer as Punjab’s first Dalit CM. Channi is also known to be close to Rahul Gandhi. He was also seen as a Dalit face to counter Shiromani Akali Dal and BSP coalition, and to defeat the BJP and AAP’s announcements to appoint a Dalit in top post in the state post-elections. The BJP had said a Dalit would be the Chief Minister if it won the state, while the AAP and the Akali Dal had promised a Deputy CM's post for the community.