Sidhu continues to attack Channi govt in public, says it lacks the political will to take the sacrilege cases to their rightful conclusion.

Much To Sidhu’s Dismay, Charanjit Singh Channi Is Here To Stay

by Tushar Gupta - Tuesday, November 9, 2021 11:38 AM IST
Much To Sidhu’s Dismay, Charanjit Singh Channi Is Here To Stay Charanjit Singh Channi (left) and Navjot Singh Sidhu (right)
  • While Sidhu has continued to attack the Channi government in public, for Congress, Channi is both a safe and intelligent bet.

    Sidhu will be sidelined as Captain was a few weeks ago; it's not a matter of 'if' but 'when'.

After picking a political feud with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), his former party, Captain Amarinder Singh, the former chief minister of Punjab, and also his current party, the Congress, to which he tendered his resignation only to withdraw it later, Navjot Singh Sidhu has found a new antagonist to his ambitions in Charanjit Singh Channi.

Merely days after Channi took office as the new Chief Minister of Punjab, Sidhu, as the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee Chief was at loggerheads with the new cabinet on the issue of portfolio appointments in the new cabinet.

As per several reports, he was also miffed with the appointment of APS Deol as the Attorney General of the state. Sidhu’s reservations were based on Deol being the representative for former Punjab Director General of Police (DGP) Sumedh Singh Saini and Inspector General of Police (IG) Paramraj Singh Umaranangal in the sacrilege cases from 2015.

Even after Deol’s resignation earlier this month, Sidhu has continued to attack the Channi government in public, stating that it lacks the political will to take the sacrilege and subsequent firing cases to their rightful conclusion.

Sidhu’s public outbursts have become a cause of concern for the Congress party which were favourites to win the Assembly Elections of 2022 before choosing to ditch Captain Amarinder Singh for Sidhu. As per several reports, Sidhu has been advised by the top brass in the Congress to curb his criticism of the Channi government during media interactions.

However, there is more than what meets the eye when it comes to Sidhu’s frustration against the transitory Congress regime in Punjab. In theory, Channi was a scapegoat Chief Minister, elevated to curb the political embarrassment Congress had to suffer after Captain made a public spectacle of his resignation, targeting everyone, from Sidhu to Sonia Gandhi.

A big question mark will always loom on why Sidhu, who was majorly responsible for the departure of Captain from the Congress, not elevated to the CM position right away, for if the Congress had no intention to promote Sidhu, why upset a guaranteed victory contender merely six months before the Assembly Elections?

However, for 10 Janpath, there is a silver lining here. In Channi, they have found a politician who not only furthers their agenda of Dalit politics, but also can be remote controlled from New Delhi, quite unlike the Captain or the otherwise erratic Sidhu.

There is also the vote bank advantage that Channi brings to the table. Post the departure of Captain, the Congress will find its Jat-Sikh vote bank dented even further. Already, the party did not enjoy much support from the community, even during their wins in 2002 and 2017, and the elevation of Channi will further distance the Congress from that vote. From a Dalit votebank perspective, Channi is a good bet, however.

Channi is not oblivious to the votebank reality on the ground as well. In the past month, since his elevation, he has been busy asserting himself, introducing programmes for the Dalit population.

Taking a cue from Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, Channi has gone on an advertising spree across the state, from billboards to radio, and from newspapers to rallies. Interestingly, Sidhu finds no mention in any of the advertisements, and on the ground, finds himself more and more isolated politically, and that is what explains his frustration against the Channi regime.

For 10 Janpath, it will be about choosing amongst the lesser evil when it comes to the CM candidate in 2022.

With Channi, they stand a better chance of securing the Dalit vote, given the Jat-Sikh vote bank would be drawn closer to the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Captain’s Punjab Lok Congress (PLC). If they decide to opt for Sidhu, however, they not only risk losing more Hindu votes and Jat-Sikh votes due to his erratic behaviour, but will also end up angering the Dalit vote bank.

Congress has already diluted its prospects of a sweeping win with the departure of Captain Amarinder Singh, defying common sense and its traditional Hindu vote bank. Further, if they choose to defy the Dalit vote bank as well to elevate Sidhu, a blunder one can never rule out with the Congress, they would be guaranteeing themselves a defeat if not a hung assembly.

For Congress, Channi is both a safe and intelligent bet. Sidhu, reduced to a political pawn in this series of political comedies, will be sidelined as Captain was a few weeks ago. Not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’.

Much to Sidhu’s dismay, Charanjit Singh Channi is here to stay. Perhaps, Sidhu can try his luck with the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) now?

Tushar is a senior-sub-editor at Swarajya. He tweets at @Tushar15_
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