Congress to announce CM face in Punjab soon: Rahul Gandhi
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the party will soon name a Chief Minister candidate in poll-bound Punjab, adding the decision will be taken by the party workers. "Two people can't lead, only one can," he said during a virtual election rally in Jalandhar. Earlier, Congress had said the decision on the CM face would be made only after the February 20 election.
Why does the story matter?
- The development comes just a few weeks before the highly-anticipated Punjab Assembly elections.
- Charanjit Singh Channi, Punjab's current chief minister, is in a power struggle with state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
- The party leadership is under pressure from both Channi and Sidhu to name a CM face. Meanwhile, the party's challenger Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has already declared Bhagwant Mann as its candidate.
Congress workers will be consulted: Gandhi
Gandhi said that normally, Congress does not announce a face for the Chief Minister "but if Congress workers want, we will select a face as well." "We will fulfill your demand...as soon as possible," he said. "But we will consult Congress workers. They will decide," he added. Both Sidhu and Channi were present on the stage when Gandhi made these remarks.
'Learned from Manmohan Singh'
Gandhi had a message for both Channi and Sidhu and referred to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to emphasize it. "If one leads, the other has promised to extend all the support. Both have the Congress' thoughts in their heart," he said. "We know how to take everyone along. I have learned a lot from you all and learned from Manmohan Singh," he added.
Will accept Rahul Gandhi's decision: Sidhu
Meanwhile, Sidhu said, "Like a disciplined soldier, I assure Rahul Gandhi that I will abide by his decision." However, the cricketer-turned-politician indicated he wanted more decision-making power. "We are fighting to form the next government. For that, if need be you can bury me and I won't raise a voice. But give me decision-making power, and don't treat me like a showpiece," he added.
Not after any post: CM Channi
On the other hand, Channi said, "I am not after any post. You decide any name for Chief Minister and I will be the first one to canvass for him." Attempting a show of unity, he called Sidhu and other Congress colleagues closer on the stage and said "with folded hands" that an outsider like Arvind Kejriwal should not claim the Congress is divided.
Several Congress MPs from Punjab missed Gandhi's visit
Meanwhile, five Congress Members of Parliament (MPs) stayed away from Gandhi's Punjab visit on Thursday. The MPs were Manish Tewari, Jasbir Singh Dimpa, Ravneet Bittu, Mohd. Sadiq, and Preneet Kaur. Their absence sparked speculations that they were upset ahead of the crucial state Assembly elections. This visit was Gandhi's first to the poll-bound state since the Election Commission of India announced the election dates.
Punjab Assembly elections 2022
Punjab will hold a single-phase contest for 117 Legislative Assembly seats on February 20. The polling results will be declared on March 10. With the AAP posing a threat, Congress is competing to retain power in the state. In the meantime, former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has formed his own political party, the Punjab Lok Congress, and has allied with the BJP.