Response to PM Security Row advice evolves in favor of Channi vs. Sidhu as Congress reflects on rotating CM

Until last week, senior congressional leadership was at an impasse over the insistence of Punjab unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu to be declared the chief ministerial face for the upcoming Punjab elections in 2022. . Not anymore. Incumbent Charanjit Singh Channi’s handling of the recent uproar over Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s breach of security in Ferozepur appears to have helped the Gandhis see the bigger picture.

Party sources say it was Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s idea to choose a Dalit leader as CM in September when Captain Amarinder Singh was acrimoniously ousted from the top post. The idea was that Sidhu could devote time and resources to keeping the herd together after the captain’s impending exit.

But as the days passed, it became clear that Sidhu and Channi were unlikely to bond. While it is common for the Punjab’s congressional leader and chief minister not to campaign together to reach a wider audience, this time the two are campaigning separately for the lack of a common goal. Both see themselves as the CM face of the party.

Since last week, the scales have tipped in Channi’s favor. In retaliation, he returned the ball to the BJP court over allegations his government compromised Modi’s security when the prime minister’s cavalcade was stranded on a flyover of the Moga-Ferozepur highway amid a blockade farmers.

Channi reportedly explained the facts to Priyanka Gandhi and said the BJP alleged a security threat due to “low turnout” at a campaign rally to which Modi was scheduled to address. The PM returned without attending the rally following the security breach.

Sources say Congress then decided to follow Channi’s line and changed course from a statement of “regret” to an attack by the BJP on the burning issue.

The story goes beyond Channi’s offensive at BJP. His hard support, connecting with the masses and playing the ‘Punjabiyat’ card clicked. Since coming to power, Channi has learned the art of playing in the gallery, of stopping to help road accident victims meet protesters. Internal surveys suggest that Channi’s stock has risen over the past few days. For once, Sidhu was slow to respond.

Congressional sources say it has been conveyed to Sidhu now that he will not decide alone on the distribution of tickets for the Punjab 2022 election, a significant victory for Camp Channi.

But the Gandhis don’t want to upset either Sidhu or Channi supporters at this point. It is possible that when the tickets are distributed, the party will discuss a rotating CM arrangement with Channi and Sidhu. For now, the high command agrees with the bidding game between the CM and the leader of the Punjab Congress, as long as the party is not the one paying the price.

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