Chandigarh, Sept. 24: Considered till recently as a “close aide” of ousted chief minister Amarinder Singh, former state Congress party president Sunil Jakhar, in a statement posted on his Twitter handle, has termed Charanjeet Singh’s appointment as a “watershed moment not only for the polity but also for the social fabric of the state”.
Jakhar, who was among the “also ran” candidates for the chief minister’s post and had been sulking for having been ignored and even raising questions over the announcement that the party would be led by Navjot Singh Sidhu in the assembly polls slated for early next year, changed his stance barely two days after accompanying Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi on a flight from Chandigarh to New Delhi.
Terming the decision to appoint Channi as “bold”, Jakhar, in his statement, added: “What Rahul Gandhi has done by choosing Charanjeet Channi as chief minister is that he has broken the barely perceptible glass ceiling”.
Channi is the first scheduled caste (SC) chief minister of the state. The last non-Jat Sikh chief minister was Giani Zail Singh (1972-1977). The SC population in Punjab is close to 32 per cent, the highest among states in the country.
While welcoming Channi’s appointment and insisting that the choice be respected, Jakhar, however, warned: “But there is clear and present danger of Punjabiat being put to test once again with usual divisive forces already weaponising this transformative initiative to fragment the society.”
“The warp and weft of this fabric is a complex interplay of aspirations and anxieties of all sections of society. This must be respected, maintained and nurtured as 'Raj Dharma’ at all times.”
Jakhar added: “This threat just cannot be wished away. Also coupled with this, if handled in inept and/or biased manner the prevailing robust brotherhood and amity, which has always been the pride of Punjab even in testing times, can be just as fragile and shatter just as easily as a ‘glass house’.”
Congressmen in Punjab, are finding it difficult to comprehend Jakhar’s statement, apart from the Rahul Gandhi angle.
“Now that Channi is the chief minister he should be allowed to govern with a free hand. Most of us have been discussing Jakhar’s tweet since the time it has appeared. There are only hints of some ‘threat’ or the other for the Punjabi society. Is it from within the party or outside?” a senior Congress leader wondered.
Most Congressmen this correspondent spoke to were equally at sea. From being removed as state party president to becoming chief minister to literally nobody will hurt any political leader from any party. The buzz is that Jakhar will be given a responsible organisational post, perhaps at the national level,” a party leader remarked.
Jakhar is also said to have been given a relatively free hand to choose his supporters as ministers in the Channi cabinet.
Meanwhile, after a week of hectic statement politics, Amarinder Singh seems to have declared a four-day truce. He will be spending time with 47 NDA course batchmates, along with their spouses, in his spanky farmhouse in Chandigarh. The fauji could well return with all guns blazing, this time, sparing none, including the Congress high command.
(To receive our E-paper on whatsapp daily, please click here. We permit sharing of the paper's PDF on WhatsApp and other social media platforms.)