Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi almost let the cat out of the bag today ahead of Rahul Gandhi’s announcement of the Congress Chief Ministerial face, saying “Give me a chance, I was the Chief Minister for just 111 days”.
“You have seen Captain’s (his predecessor Amarinder Singh’s) rule, Badal’s rule. Give me a chance as I ruled just for 111 days… Rahul Gandhi appointed me LoP and then we came to power. I have no political taint,” he added, citing the Enforcement Directorate’s case against his nephew, over which he has been targetted by Navjot Sidhu.
Then he promptly backtracked, saying, “We have to fight for Punjab regardless of who leads the fight”.
In his speech, his key rival for the top post candidature, Navjot Singh Sidhu, was also anything but circumspect. “I was in the BJP for 13 years and they never cared… Rahul Gandhi appointed me the state president in fourth year only… I can never thank enough”.
“I have already agreed with Rahul Gandhi’s decision… Even if you don’t give me decision-making power, still I will support the next Chief Minister,” he added.
“I seek welfare of Punjab,” Mr Sidhu said, projecting himself as an “ashiq” (lover) of Punjab who does not “seek anything in return”.
Then came the rider: “Don’t treat me like a showpiece,” he added.
“Showpiece” has been a recurring motif in Mr Sidhu’s opposition to Mr Channi and his predecessor Amarinder Singh, especially since his elevation as the chief of the party’s state unit.
The cricketer-turned-politician, who had hoped to succeed Mr Singh to the top post, had then turned a relentless critic of the government led by Mr Channi, going to the extent of writing to Sonia Gandhi about his take on government’s policies and asking her to give directions to the government.
Mr Gandhi’s announcement came today as the row escalated, presenting a divided front in the party ahead of the crucial state elections.