Punjab elections: Congress will soon name CM candidate, says Rahul Gandhi
The Congress will soon declare a CM candidate for Punjab elections and the decision will be made after feedback from party workers and the public, senior leader Rahul Gandhi announced on Thursday.
The Congress will soon declare a chief ministerial candidate for Punjab and the decision will be made after feedback from party workers and the public, senior leader Rahul Gandhi said in a surprise move on Thursday, just three weeks before key assembly elections.
Gandhi’s announcement came in Jalandhar at a virtual rally, hours after a controversy over his Amritsar visit where seven of the party’s eight members of Parliament (MP) from the state were absent. The Jalandhar event was attended by Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi and state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, two men widely seen as the main contenders for the CM’s chair.
“Normally, the Congress doesn’t do it, but if the party, its workers or Punjab wants it, then we will take a decision on the chief ministerial face by consulting our workers and the right person will lead Punjab,” Gandhi said at the Navi Soch Nava Punjab event at party lawmaker Pargat Singh’s native village.
Punjab goes to the polls on February 20, and the Congress is fighting to keep control of one of the few states it governs on its own. The Congress’s main rival, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has already declared Sangrur MP Bhagwant Mann as its CM contender after public feedback.
Gandhi said he had spoken to both Channi and Sidhu, who told him that the biggest question in Punjab was who will lead the Congress in the state. “See, two people can’t lead. Only one will lead. Both of them promised me that the other person will commit to helping whoever becomes the CM face,” he added.
In his address, Sidhu said the people of Punjab were wondering who would implement an agenda to reduce the state’s debt burden. “Once the party clears the uncertainty over the CM face, it will clinch 70 seats in the polls”, added Sidhu. He also asked Gandhi to not make him a “showpiece”.
Channi – who is the state’s first Dalit chief minister – said Gandhi, the Congress and people of Punjab made him the chief minister. I don’t need any post, you can choose anyone as the CM face and I will stand strongly with him. I am ready to sacrifice anything for the party and Punjab,” he added.
Gandhi’s visit to Punjab – which was aimed at kicking off his poll campaign in the northern state – began on a controversial note on Thursday morning in Amritsar. As the former party chief made his way to the sanctum sanctorum of the Golden Temple – the holiest seat for Sikhs – only a section of the party was in attendance.
Of the party’s eight MPs from the state, seven were absent. This included Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari and Patiala MP Preneet Kaur. Kaur is the wife of former chief minister Amarinder Singh, who was ousted by the Congress last year. Tewari is also a close associate of Singh, who has now formed a new party, Punjab Lok Congress, and allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Also not present were cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh, who are Congress’s nominees from Fatehgarh Churian and Kapurthala segments, respectively. They wanted tickets for their sons from their respective adjoining segments but were denied one by the party.
Khadoor Sahib MP Jasbir Singh Dimpa, who is also considered the local parliamentarian, skipped the visit. “Due to my personal obligation I was not able to attend the Amritsar function and for this I had already informed my leadership, no assumptions please,” he tweeted later. Dimpa had sought a ticket for his son Gursant Updesh Singh Gill but was denied.
Former state unit chief Sunil Jakhar was also absent but tweeted later that he was under seven-day Covid-19 quarantine.
So far, the Congress has named 109 of the 117 candidates.
Channi and Sidhu both were present as Gandhi ate langar, visited the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial, the Durgiana Temple and the Bhagwan Valmiki shrine at Ram Tirath.
Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla, who was present at the event, said more than 85 percent of poll candidates were in attendance. “Actually, the schedule of Rahul ji was running late. So, some candidates who were to file nominations and had other programmes fixed could not join him,” he said.
“Only Congress candidates from 117 constituencies were invited not MPs ,so no boycott was there,” another Congress leader said, seeking anonymity.