Charanjit Singh Channi was sworn in on Monday as the 16th chief minister of the Punjab and he will be the first Dalit leader to lead the state.
The swearing-in ceremony took place at the governor’s house in Chandigarh, Navjot Singh Sidhu and other leaders present.
Channi earlier today offered prayers to a Gurudwara in Rupnagar ahead of his swearing-in ceremony. Just hours before the event, Congress leader Sunil Jakhar questioned the statement by Punjab Congressman Harish Rawat that the party will fight the elections under Sidhu.
“On the day of Charnjit_channi’s swearing in as chief minister, Mr. Rawats’ statement that ‘the elections will be held under Sidhu’ is disconcerting. This is likely to undermine CM’s authority but also to nullify the very “raison d’être” of her selection for this post, “Jakhar tweeted.
On Sunday, Channi was elected leader of the Legislative Party of Congress (CLP) in Punjab.
“It is a great pleasure for me to announce that Charanjit Singh Channi has been unanimously elected leader of the Legislative Party of the Punjab Congress,” tweeted Harish Rawat, head of the Punjab Congress. Shortly after the announcement, Channi met with the governor of Punjab and claimed responsibility for the formation of the government. Amarinder Singh congratulated Channi on his appointment.
With just a few months before the Assembly polls, the choice of Congress is gaining in importance as Dalits constitute around 30% of the state’s population.
Channi, a three-time legislator of the Chamkaur Sahib assembly constituency in Rupnagar district, joined Congress in 2012. He has held several portfolios in the outgoing cabinet headed by Amarinder Singh, including technical education.
Bitter infighting rocked the Congress party ahead of the polls. At the heart of the crisis were Navjot Singh Sidhu, cricketer turned politician and head of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC), and former CM captain Amarinder Singh, publicly trading pikes for each other.
The conflict in the Punjab congressional unit has reached a point where it has become untenable for Amarinder Singh to continue. He finally resigned on Saturday.
In a letter to Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Amarinder Singh expressed personal anguish over the political developments of the past five months and feared that the high command’s decision could cause instability in the state. Singh said he was resigning because he felt humiliated
Once touted to be in the driver’s seat to retain power in the next polls, recent developments have divided analysts and they are mixed on Congress’ chances of moving forward. Some say the choice of Congress Dalits is aimed at controlling Sidhu and reversing the impact of Amarinder Singh’s resignation. Others see it as a massive shake up for the party and the Aam Aadmi (AAP) party wins at their expense.
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