The Congress’ choice and three-time MLA is a seasoned leader
Charanjit Singh Channi, the Congress’ choice as the next chief minister of Punjab will be the first Dalit to head the government in the State.
Mr. Channi, 49, was the State Technical Education Minister in Capt Amarinder Singh’s Cabinet. A close aide of State Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu, he was among the ministers who had rebelled against Capt. Amarinder Singh, expressing lack of faith in the former Chief Minister’s ability to fulfil the party’s election promises. He had attacked Capt. Amarinder on several issues — the Bargari sacrilege issue, failure to curb the drugs and transport mafias and other un-kept election promises made in 2017.
The three-time MLA began his political journey as president of the Kharar municipal council in 2002 — a post he held for two terms. He was first elected to the Punjab Vidhan Sabha in 2007 as an Independent from Chamkaur Sahib in Rupnagar district.
Later he joined the Congress party and retained the seat in 2012 and again in 2017. He was elected as Leader of the Opposition in Punjab State Assembly from 2015 to 2016 during the SAD-BJP regime.
In 2017, Mr. Channi secured a place in the Captain Amarinder Singh government as a cabinet minister, handling the portfolios of Technical Education, Industrial Training, Employment Generation and Tourism and Cultural Affairs.
The chief minister-designate has had his share of controversies. In 2018, a woman IAS officer had accused him of sending an “inappropriate text” message. Thereafter, the Punjab Women Commission had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter and had sought a response from the government.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had then asked Mr. Channi to apologise to the woman officer and had said he believed the matter had been “resolved” to her satisfaction.
But amid the infighting in the party and Mr. Channi’s strident opposition to Capt. Amarinder, the issue returned to haunt him in May this year when the women’s panel chief threatened to go on a hunger strike if the State government failed to apprise her within a week of its stand on the issue.
In 2018 again, as Minister he was at the centre of a row when he chose to toss a coin to decide on postings for lecturers at a polytechnic.
Mr. Channi had invited 37 lecturers for a discussion before handing them orders All the candidates had been selected through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) examination.
While 35 lecturers amicably reached a consensus over the station of their choice, two candidates wanted the same station in Patiala. To break this deadlock, Mr. Channi then decided to toss a coin, which he later said, “was done after both the candidates had agreed to it.”
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