Chandigarh: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi deftly handled the pressure being exerted on him – rather subtly by chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi and brazenly by party chief Navjot Singh Sidhu -- to name the chief ministerial face, by firmly assuring at a rally that it would be done ``very soon’’.
‘‘Normally, we don’t do this but if the Congress party, our workers and Punjab want this, we will take a decision on the CM’s face," he said. "We will take this decision after consulting our workers. Others will work as a team," he added.
Rahul was on a day-long visit to Punjab to kick off the party’s campaign for February 20 assembly polls. For once, even the optics and the symbolism of his visit to Golden Temple and joining the ‘langar’ took the backseat.
Significantly, Gandhi made the comments when both Sidhu and Channi were on stage. Keen to put the power tussle between the two leaders in deep freeze, Gandhi had a message for both and referred to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to drive it home. "Two people can't lead, only one can. If one leads, the other has promised to extend all support. Both have the Congress party’s well-being in their heart," said Rahul.
Rahul also visited Durgiana Mandir and Bhagwan Valmiki temple at Amritsar. Accosting him were all the 108 candidates announced thus far, with Channi, Sidhu and deputy chief minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa leading the way. He later held a virtual rally from Mithapur village in Jalandhar before returning to Delhi.
Sidhu, who spoke first, said in his typical animated manner that while the state was bleeding financially and failing on all other fronts, the people wanted to know the answers to three questions – who would get them out of this mess in Punjab; what would be his agenda or his roadmap; and, thirdly, the biggest question in their minds -- who would implement this agenda?
Promising Rahul that he would abide by the leadership’s decision – whatsoever -- Sidhu went on to promise that he will in any case ensure a win in more than 70 seats out of the total 117.
Channi, too, chipped in, thanking Rahul for giving him the highest post in the state – despite his humble background – and said it was possible because of the revolutionary vision of the latter.
``If there is any merit in the current government, the people want this team to work for five more years’’, he pointedly said and added that since other parties were taunting Congress for being a bride-less ``baraat,'' people wanted him (Rahul) to name the CM face; also, that he would be the first to canvass for the nominee.
A calm Rahul, in his well-structured and focussed over half-an-hour address, not only articulately spoke of his party’s vision for different sectors, but also held that peace in Punjab was of paramount importance.
Coming straight to Sidhu and Channi’s question -- who would be the CM face – Rahul, without batting an eyelid, said he felt happy that both of them had assured him that they would work with dedication in case the other is named. He, however, was quick to add that the party would consult party workers and then choose the right person. ``And let me assure you, it will be done very soon’’, he said.
Coming back to his vision, he lashed out at the BJP and the AAP which he said believed in a centralised power centre. He referred to demonetisation, GST and farm laws, which had been brought to benefit only a few corporate houses. ``The Congress wants that the huge revenue generated through liquor, mining, transport, and cable TV business goes back to you'', he said.
It is pertinent to mention here that these businesses have been reportedly run illegally by people having different political patronage.