Jalandhar/Amritsar, January 27
On his daylong visit to the state, former AICC chief Rahul Gandhi today said he would soon announce the chief ministerial candidate for the state Assembly elections.
Addressing a virtual rally in Jalandhar, Rahul said either of the two — Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi or PCC chief Navjot Sidhu — would be picked. He said opinion would be sought from the party workers before making the announcement.
Rahul said he discussed the issue with both Sidhu and Channi on his way to the venue. “They told me the biggest question everyone is asking in Punjab is who of the two will take the lead. There cannot be two leaders. If one gets the chance, the other one will pledge support for him. I was really happy with it. So, I thought that if the party leaders, workers and Punjab want it, we will take the decision. We will do it by seeking the opinion of our workers and I want everyone to fight as a team.”
Prior to his speech both Sidhu and Channi set the narrative in this direction. Sidhu said: “People are asking who will be the leader to put forth the party agenda. I will accept your decision. Meinu darshani ghoda na bana dena (Do not make me a mere showpiece).”
Starting his speech with the verses of Guru Ravidass, Channi told Rahul, “If you have liked my 111 days of CMship, a thought could be given for the next five years.” He was, however, quick to change his stance, “You have already given too much to someone whose family has not even had anyone even as an MLA. Pick anyone as CM face. I assure you my full support.” At this, he invited Sidhu near him on the dais and hugged him. Sidhu responded with a warm gesture as ministers Bharat Bhushan Ashu and Pargat Singh also came along.
Rahul also spoke on many plans already put forth by Sidhu in his Punjab Model for the past few days.
Affirming that his party would give a push to the industry, Rahul said, “We want ‘Made in Punjab’ labels to go popular.” On governance, he said, “We will start single window system for 160 services under ‘Sarkar aapke dwaar’ project. We will focus on decentralisation.” On women issues, he said, “I have suggested that a dedicated women manifesto must be released with two-three main promises”.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi along with party’s all candidates kicked off the election campaign after paying obeisance at the Golden Temple here today. He also paid tributes to martyrs at the Jallianwala Bagh, before visiting Durgiana Mandir and Bhagwan Valmiki Tirath temple.
Rahul landed at Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport, Amritsar, at 12.30 pm from where he directly reached the Golden Temple. Unlike his June 2017 visit when he opted to stand in a queue meant for common devotees, he gained access from the VIP lane to the sanctum sanctorum and offered ‘rumala’ and ‘karah parshad deg’ at the shrine. In acknowledgement, SGPC staffers presented him a ‘sehra’ (a garland). Congress leader Bhagwant Pal Singh Sachchar presented him a ‘kirpan’. He also listened to the kirtan for some time.
He was flanked by Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, Deputy CMs OP Soni and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. During the course of his visit, he kept on sharing his experience through tweets in Hindi.
Eight of nine MPs not present
Of a total of eight Congress MPs, only Amritsar MP Gurjeet Singh Aujla accompanied Rahul. Punjab Lok Congress leader Amarinder Singh’s wife Preneet Kaur (Patiala), Manish Tewari (Anandpur Sahib), Ravneet Singh Bittu (Ludhiana), Jasbir Singh Gill (Khadoor Sahib), Mohammad Sadique (Faridkot), Chaudhry Santokh Singh (Jalandhar) and Amar Singh (Fatehgarh Sahib) were conspicuous by their absence. Congress leaders said most MPs were busy with their prior commitments. The Khadoor Sahib MP clarified due to his personal obligations he was not able to attend the Amritsar function and for this he had already informed his leadership, ‘no assumptions please’.
There can’t be two chiefs
They (Channi & Sidhu) told me the biggest question everyone is asking in Punjab is who of the two will take the lead. There cannot be two chiefs. If one gets the chance, the other one will pledge support for him. Rahul Gandhi, former AICC chief
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