Notably, Channi and his two deputies -- Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Om Parkash Soni -- who were accompanying Congress Punjab chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had taken a private chartered jet to Delhi.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi landed himself in the thick of controversy soon after taking oath when a photograph of him posing before a private chartered jet along with his deputies and state Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, apparently before they boarded it for Delhi, was picked uyp by the Opposition parties to target him. Channi, who succeeded Amarinder Singh following the latter’s unceremonious exit, yesterday defended his trip after visiting Dera Sachkhand Ballan in Amritsar. Speaking to the media, Channi asked: “What is the problem if a poor man takes a jet ride?” When asked who would foot the bill, Channi chose not to respond.
Notably, Channi and his two deputies — Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Om Parkash Soni — who were accompanying Congress Punjab chief Navjot Singh Sidhu had taken a private chartered jet to Delhi. Sidhu had shared a photo on his Twitter which was clicked just before they boarded the flight and had captioned it, “In Line Of Duty”. The opposition parties had slammed the newly sworn-in CM and deputy CMs for taking a chartered flight to cover a distance of just 250 km.
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Opposition Shiromani Akali Dal had said, “After saying that they stand with the common man, INC leaders take private jets to travel just 250 KMs from Chandigarh to Delhi. Are there no normal flights or cars that can be used? Or is this chest-thumping aimed at propagation of Gandhi family’s Delhi Darbar culture?”
A cursory look at the newly-appointed self-sworn affidavits betrays his defence of being targetted for being a “poor man”. According to the affidavit filed by Channi ahead of the 2017 Punjab assembly elections, he has assets worth Rs 14.51 crore and liabilities to the tune of Rs 10,84,000. Channi had contested the Punjab elections in 2017 and 2012 from the Chamkaur Sahib assembly constituency. As per his 2012 election affidavit, his assets stood at around Rs 10.5 crore. Channi also filed an ITR for Rs 31,51,963 for the 2014-15 assessment year.
Not just Channi, his deputies, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Om Parkash Soni are also crorepatis with assets worth over Rs 3 crore and Rs 18 crore, respectively, as per their election affidavit. PCC president Navjot Singh Sidhu, on the other hand, is the richest of them all with assets worth over Rs 45 crore.
The Punjab Congress is in the middle of a major churn just months ahead of the assembly elections in the state which saw Amarinder Singh’s ouster just days ago. While insiders defended the decision to appoint Channi, a relatively lesser-known face, as Singh’s successor as he would be the first Dalit to occupy the CM’s chair in the state. Before the move could be at least seen as good optics, Congress in-charge for the state, Harish Rawat, declared that the elections would be fought with a different face.
The move immediately drew criticism from Opposition parties which saw this as an insult to Dalits as well as the people of Punjab. And the controversy over Channi’s photo with the private jet only made matters worse. “Wow…what a ‘gareeban di sarkar’! A 16-seater Learjet to ferry 4 people when a 5-seater official chopper was available. I’m now beginning to feel I sleepwalked through the last 4 & a half years, believing Punjab to be in a fiscal mess. My bad!…Wonder who’s paying for such luxury – the state govt or Punjab Congress? Can’t be Navjot Singh Sidhu or Charanjit Singh Channi or Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa or OP Soni for sure. Though eventually, I guess it’s the common man who’ll end up footing the bill for their pleasures!” said Raveen Thukral, media advisor to former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh.