New CM in Punjab: Rahul Gandhi’s masterstroke on eve of Assembly elections

Devsagar Singh

New Delhi, Sept 21.

It is clear  Rahul Gandhi has asserted himself in the selection of Charanjt Singh Channi as the new Chief Minister of Punjab where Assembly elections are due early next year. In  some ways it is a masterstroke of the former Congress President who is likely to become the new party chief again in a matter of months. By anointing a Dalit Sikh as CM, the Congress party  has unsettled  other rivals, including the Shiromani Akal Dal (SAD)  which has announced its tie-up with Mayawati’s BSP eyeing on 32 per cent Dalit votes in the state.

It was not easy for the Congress party to remove Capt Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister, given his hold in the state coupled with his proximity to  Sonia Gandhi. This was inspite of  the daughty leader steadily losing support of party legislators in the past few months. It took Rahul  quite a while to  contrive a situation to unseat the Captain. The exercise  had begun with the appointment of  Navjot Singh Sidhu as Punjab PCC president earlier this year. Clearly, this step was in sync with larger plan that unfolded now.

There are bound to be disgruntled leaders  who may throw tantrums to assert themselves, like CM hopeful Sunil Jakhar. But givent the Congress culture, they would soon fall in line. Sukhjinder Singh Randhava, another CM hopeful, has now  accepted the Deputy CM’s post without making any noise. It is in Jakhar’s own interest to aquiesce with the situation. As for Capt Amarinder Singh, he should have no grouse. He remained CM with unbriddled authority for close to ten years. Much as he bragged about his support among MLAs, he was shown the reality hardly a week ago when as many as 76 of the 84 party legislators attended a CLP meeting against his wishes. As a loyal Congressman, the Captain has little choice but to be with his party in the upcoming assembly poll. Anything else would only destroy his  hard earned reputation.

As the only Sikh majority state, there is nothing wrong in installing a sikh as the Chief Minister. The bogey of Hindu-Sikh divide sought to be created by some vested interests was completely uncalled for and patently wrong. With a common ancestry, the two communities have  always  been in the best of relations in Punjab, something of an envy  for the caste- ridden hinterland of much of India.

It is time Rahul Gandhi also asserts in Rajasthan where the legislature party is divided between two leaders—Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and  youthful Sachin Pilot. Gehlot may have had the support of Sonia Gandhi to remain in power thus far.  Sachin Pilot, however, needs to be given a chance to become CM as reportedly promised by the party high command.  The Congress has seen the upheavals in  Madhya Pradesh where it lost its government under Kamal Nath because of young Scindia walking away from the party with hordes of legislators.

As the only leader focused against the Narendra Modi Government with frontal attacks on the PM, Rahul Gandhi has made his mark. It is another matter that a handful of his own party leaders with no mass base on the ground seek to downgrade his leadership.  It is good that such leaders have now been identified.

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