Hours after Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat said that the state elections would be fought under Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, All India Congress Committee chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala stepped in to clarify the situation, saying the elections would be fought “jointly” under Sidhu and CM Charanjit Singh Channi.
“Our CM is Channi. Our state Congress president is Sidhu… so Sidhu is heading the organisation, and Channi is the face of the government. They will fight the elections jointly,” Surjewala was quoted as saying by The Tribune.
“Our faces will be Charanjit Singh Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu, as also ordinary Congress workers and leaders who will be supporting them. If anybody says one or the other will be the face, intentionally or otherwise, it is being misinterpreted by the media,” Surjewala said, as per The Hindu.
What Had Harish Rawat Said?
On Sunday, Rawat had said that under the current political circumstances, the upcoming assembly elections would be fought under Sidhu, who is extremely popular.
“It (Congress face for upcoming state assembly polls) will be decided by the Congress president, but given the circumstances, elections will be fought with the Chief Minister’s cabinet under Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, whose chief is Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is very popular,” news agency ANI had quoted him as saying.
Sunil Kumar Jakhar, the former Punjab Congress chief, who was in the reckoning for the state’s chief minister post, later reacter to Rawat's statement and termed his comments as “baffling”.
"It’s likely to undermine CM’s authority but also negate the very ‘raison d’être’ of his selection for this position,” he had tweeted.
Later, however, ANI quoted Jakhar as saying that he had expressed his concern as a Congressman and that he believes such comments were avoidable.
What Had the Opposition Said?
Several Opposition leaders were critical of the Congress party’s move to name Channi as the new chief minister of Punjab just months before the Assembly polls.
On Monday, Bahujan Samaj Party president and former CM of Uttar Pradesh, Mayawati, had said Channi’s appointment seemed to be a gimmick. She went on to say the Congress party does not seem to “fully trust” the Dalit community.
BJP leader Priti Gandhi was also critical of the Congress party, saying the Dalit empowerment narrative was just a pretence.
Punjab BJP in-charge Dushyant Gautam said that appointing Channi as CM was a move by Congress to get Dalit votes and was all for show.
BJP leader Amit Malviya also took to social media and said Channi had been made the CM only to hold the seat for Sidhu, which is a huge insult to the entire Dalit community.
Surjewala Asks Opposition To Stop Spreading Lies
Replying to all the criticism, Surjewala said, “I want to tell all our friends in the media, please, you also do not grudge the young Dalit leader, and the role assigned him to as Chief Minister of Punjab... He will be our face along with Navjot Singh Sidhu, which is natural."
We urge the BJP, Akali Dal, BSP and the AAP to stop insulting Dalits and spread lies about them,” he was quoted as saying by The Hindu.
He also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi how many Dalit chief minister his party had appointed in the last seven years. “May I ask Prime Minister Narendra Modi that you have been in power for seven long years and in a dozen States, have you ever appointed a Dalit as Chief Minister?”
(With inputs from The Tribune, The Hindu, ANI and The Indian Express)
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