Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit Sikh, sworn in as Punjab CM; says ‘Congress made a common man the chief minister’

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Updated: September 20, 2021 1:32 PM

Charanjit Singh Channi is the first Dalit Sikh chief minister of the state, which goes to polls in less than five months from now.

Charanjit Singh Channi is the first Dalit Sikh chief minister of the state, which goes to polls in less than five months from now.

Charanjit Singh Channi on Monday took oath as the chief minister of Punjab, thereby succeeding Captain Amarinder Singh, whose resignation from the CM post threw the party in a huddle on Saturday. Channi is the first Dalit Sikh chief minister of the state, which goes to polls in less than five months from now.

Along with Channi, Sukhjinder Randhawa, who was the frontrunner for the post just a few hours before Channi’s appointment, and Brahm Mohindra took oath as the deputy chief ministers in Channi’s Cabinet.

The oath of office was administered by Governor Banwarilal Purohit at the Raj Bhavan in a ceremony attended by Congress leader and state party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu among others. Former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh skipped the event, showing his displeasure over the recent developments.

Soon after taking oath as the chief minister, Channi said that Captain did a lot of good work for the people of Punjab and he will take it forward. “We will waive water and electricity bills of farmers,” he announced.

“The party is supreme, not the CM or the cabinet. The government will work as per the party’s ideology,” the 58-year-old added.

Congratulating Channi on being sworn in as the new chief minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Congratulations to Shri Charanjit Singh Channi Ji on being sworn-in as Punjab’s Chief Minister. Will continue to work with the Punjab government for the betterment of the people of Punjab.”

The party settled on Channi, the technical education minister in the outgoing Amarinder Singh cabinet, after a flurry of consultations through the day on Saturday. Several names did the rounds over the next several hours and Randhawa appeared to be the clear frontrunner for a while. Earlier, Congress veteran Ambika Soni told reporters in Delhi that she was offered the post but declined.

Several leaders told The Indian Express that the appointment of a Dalit in a state with nearly 32 per cent Dalit population was a “sound political decision” — given that all opposition parties have been wooing the community.

It is not certain that new CM will be able to accomplish the task in the time available to him, observers say. And Navjot Singh Sidhu, recently appointed as the party’s state unit president, could still be projected as the CM candidate as the elections near.

But Channi’s appointment will allow the party to play the Dalit card in the elections. An estimated 30 per cent of the state’s population, counting both Sikhs and Hindus, is from that community. Its biggest concentration is in the Doaba region.

The opposition BJP had earlier announced that if voted to power in Punjab, it will make a Dalit the chief minister. The Shiromani Akali Dal, which is fighting the polls in alliance with the BSP, has promised a Dalit deputy CM.

Channi on Sunday had met Governor Banwarilal Purohit to stake claim to the top job in the poll-bound state soon after being elected as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party. Amarinder Singh was nudged into quitting ostensibly over his “failure” to fulfil the promises made by the party in the 2017 assembly polls.

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