Chandigarh: The Congress’ final list of eight candidates Sunday which totalled all its 117 candidates in poll-bound Punjab, sprang a surprise by naming chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi from Bhadaur, a seat reserved for scheduled castes as well, besides his candidature from his traditional reserved Chamkaur Sahib seat.
Channi, a third-time legislator from his traditional seat in Rupnagar district has been named from another reserved seat in Barnala district – an Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP’s) citadel – for assembly polls scheduled for February 20, as well in this list.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Congress’ candidate from Bhadaur Joginder Singh had finished poor third after AAP’s Pirmal Singh Dhaula and Akali Dal’s Sant Balvir Singh Ghunas, in the 2017 polls.
Political observers opine that the Congress’ move to also name Channi for this seat, aimed at hitting two birds with a stone – it wanted to break the AAP citadel by fielding its incumbent Dalit CM and two – it did not want to leave anything to chance on Channi.
Fielding Channi from two seats gives him an edge over party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu as both of them aspire to be chief ministerial candidates. The latter, however, faces a tough fight in the wake of the entry of his enemy number one, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) senior leader Bikram Singh Majithia in his Amritsar (East) seat. Majithia has chosen to fight Sidhu here beside his home turf of nearby seat Majitha as it is widely believed that Sidhu was instrumental in booking Majithia in an old drug case.
Channi, who was first elected in 2007, has represented the Chamkaur Sahib seat ever since. Though he served as a minister in the former Capt Amarinder Singh-led Congress government and as leader of the opposition (LoP) in the state assembly from 2015 to 2016, he was appointed as state’s first-ever Dalit chief minister in September of last year following the unceremonious exit of Capt Amarinder Singh because of bad blood in the party.
The other seven candidates declared on Sunday evening were Manish Bansal, son of former Union minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, Tarsem Singh Sialkja from Attari seat, Sukhpal Singh Bhullar from Khem Karan, Satbir Singh Saini Balichiki from Nawan Shahr, Ishwarjot Singh Cheema from Ludhiana South, Mohan Singh Phalianwala from Jalalabad, and Vishnu Sharma from Patiala.
The last two named face Siromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Sukhbir Badal in Jalalabad and former two-time chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh in Patiala.