Chandigarh: While former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi is currently in a closed-door meeting with most prominent contenders for Chief Ministerial faces of Punjab- Navjot Singh Sidhu, CM Charanjit Singh Channi and another top notch leader, Sunil Jakhar, the latter on Sunday announced he had quit active politics, and there was no question of him being the Congress’s Punjab CM face.
Talking to media, Jakhar said the development may be interpreted in whatever way, but that he would remain a loyal Congress member.
Meanwhile, Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi on Thursday had made the announcement of the CM face after addressing a rally in Ropar. “We had assured that all the party leaders will accept the will of the workers and voter. We are expecting Rahul ji to make the announcement at Ludhiana on Sunday,” Channi said after he was asked about the announcement of CM face.
It has been learnt that Channi is emerging as the front runner for the Punjab CM face. While the Congress has undertaken a tele-voting to seek the opinion of party workers on the two contenders, Sidhu feels it is the people of the state who will decide the next chief minister.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is also likely to make her maiden visit to Punjab in the second week of this month.
Rahul Gandhi had during his recent visit announced that the party will seek responses from voters and workers to zero in on the CM candidate. Following this, pre-recorded message through the Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS) were sent out to mobile numbers of voters across the state. Besides, feedback was taken through party candidates, AICC coordinators, survey teams spread across the 117 Assembly segments over the next one week.
The party has already got over 52 lakh responses from voters through the IVRS system. Feedback is also being sought from party workers and leaders. Through the message, the voters were being given three options — Charanjit Singh Channi, Navjot Singh Sidhu or no CM face.
Sidhu had for a longtime led often bitter campaign to oust Amarinder Singh first from the chief minister’s post and then the party. After Amarinder’s exit, he was all set to lead the party in Punjab assembly elections due in 2022 till Channi emerged on the scene as the first Dalit chief minister of Punjab.
Channi was supposed to be a stop-gap arrangement till the elections but as he played his cards very well as the chief minister and surprised everyone, including Sidhu, with his smart moves and his public outreach, he turned out to be a prized asset for Punjab Congress.
In a hint that the scales might be tilting towards the incumbent CM, the Congress had fielded Channi from two seats. Also, he has been included in the list of “star campaigners” for Uttarakhand, while leaving Sidhu out.
Though, both the leaders have agreed to accept the decision of the party on the issue of chief minister face, the road ahead doesn’t seem so smooth for the two.