Speculations are rife that former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi is likely to join the Bharatiya Janata Party. Sources told News18 that he met a few BJP leaders in Punjab, even as Congress tried to placate him.
The rumour comes amid fear of multiple power centres with former PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu walking out of Patiala jail post his bail. Channi had disappeared from the political limelight after the Congress was routed in the Punjab Assembly election 2022, in which the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) won a massive mandate.
He had also faced a backlash after the arrest of his nephew in corruption cases. The former CM, however, reentered the state politics with a surprise visit to slain Punjab singer Sidhu Moose Wala’s village. He had also created ripples in the party for staying with his parents overnight.
Channi was seen at Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra in Rajasthan too, after returning from his trip abroad. He had also met Priyanka Gandhi and Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge. Many felt it was well-thought out move, sending a message to his opponents in the party that he was still relevant.
“You have to remember that the Congress desperately wants to claw back in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls and Channi senses it. He may have faced a drubbing in the assembly polls but his caste affiliation could still make him an aspirant for the ticket from a reserved seat,” a senior leader had told News18 in December.
Even with his return to Punjab, he chose to visit the Moose Wala family; a step which many believe was strategically suited for him.
Channi’s ‘Strategic’ Moves Paying Off?
The Congress is now trying to bring the former chief minister on board for campaigning in Jalandhar parliamentary bypoll. The party is also making attempts to call a truce among leaders making different voices.
According to a report in Times of India, during his brief stint as the CM, Channi managed to earn a good support base in Ravidassia/Adi-dharmi community, which has a strong presence at the seat, and Channi factor worked at some seats in the Doaba region and contributed to the Congress party’s win in five out of nine assembly segments of the Jalandhar constituency.
The report further stated that Channi was also keen on contesting from the seat and had made a couple of rounds of the Jalandhar constituency when the candidate was yet to be finalised, but had confined himself to a few select meetings.
The TOI report quoted well-placed sources in the party as saying that efforts were on to persuade him to campaign in the constituency. It is also learnt that leaders who have been speaking in different voices are being told to watch their words carefully in the run up to the Jalandhar bypoll.
Meanwhile, the party leaders are also anxiously watching the next moves of Navjot Singh Sidhu, who after meeting Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi in Delhi on Thursday, called on party president Mallikarjun Kharge and general secretary K C Venugopal.
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