Who Will Be Congress’ CM Face: Channi or Sidhu?

The Congress in Punjab is yet to decide on who will be its face in the Assembly elections. Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu are the party’s biggest names.

File photo of Navjot Singh Sidhu and Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi

Facing a tough challenge from the Aam Aadmi Party and its chief ministerial candidate Bhagwant Mann, the Congress in Punjab is yet to decide on who will be its face in the Assembly elections. While Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi and Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Singh Sidhu are the party’s biggest names in the state, the party has not named either of them as the CM candidate.

A recently shared video featuring actor-philanthropist Sonu Sood posted by the Congress on its Twitter handle has triggered speculation as to who will be the party’s chief ministerial face in Punjab. The 36-second video clip shows Sonu Sood expressing his views about the qualities a “real CM” possesses. The video shows a montage of – Charanjit Singh Channi with dramatic background music pitching him as the man for the CM’s job.

But Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu is also a leader who cannot be easily ignored. Channi is contesting the assembly polls from his traditional Chamkaur Sahib seat, whereas Sidhu is the nominee from Amritsar East.

Here’s a look at the two leaders:

Charanjit Singh Channi

Being the first Dalit Chief Minister of the state, Channi might have yet another shot at the CM’s chair as Scheduled Castes comprises of 32 per cent of the state’s population.

The 58-year-old, who belongs to the Ramdasia Sikh community, was born on March 1, 1963, in Makrona Kalan village near Chamkaur Sahib town of Punjab. He completed his matriculation from Khalsa Higher Secondary School in Kharar followed by LLB from Panjab University and MBA from Punjab Technical University. He is currently pursuing PhD from Panjab University, Chandigarh. He is married to Kamaljit Kaur and the couple has two children. His brother Manohar Singh is also a politician who will be contesting as an Independent from Bassi Pathana assembly seat in this election.

Political Career

He began his political career as a municipal councilor in the early 2000s. Initially, he won local bodies elections on a Congress ticket from Nagar district. In 2002, he was elected as the president of the Kharar municipal council.

He has registered a hat-trick of wins from Chamkaur Sahib. His first victory was in 2007 followed by 2012 and then again in 2017. However, in 2007 he won as an Independent candidate.

He joined Congress in 2012 and got elected again as a legislator from the same seat. In 2015, Channi was elected as Leader of the Opposition in the 14th Punjab Vidhan Sabha. In 2017, he was appointed as the Cabinet Minister for Technical Education, Industrial Training, Employment Generation and Science and Technology in the government of Punjab.

In September 2021, Channi succeeded Captain Amarinder Singh as Chief Minister of Punjab after the latter’s resignation.

Navjot Singh Sidhu

Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was instrumental in the ouster of former Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, is no pushover. Just like his cricketing career, Sidhu has shown that he is a fighter who will not go down easily.

Born in Patiala, Punjab, Sidhu is an alumnus of Yadavindra Public School, Patiala. He pursued his LLB from Amity University and received the master’s degree in law from Benjamin N Cardozo School of Law in New York.

He is married to Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a doctor and a former member of Punjab Legislative Assembly. The couple has two children, daughter Rabia and son Karan.

Cricket Career

As a professional cricketer, Sidhu had a career spanning over 19 years after his first-class debut in 1981–82. Playing mostly as a top-order batter, Sidhu went on to play in 51 Tests and 136 One Day Internationals for his country. He was known for his six-hitting ability and earned a title for himself “Sixer Sidhu“. After retirement, he turned to commentary and television, most notably as a judge of comedy shows, and as a permanent guest in Comedy Nights with Kapil.

Political Career

Sidhu is currently the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee President. He has also served as the Punjab Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs.

His political journey started in 2004 when he contested the Lok Sabha election from Amritsar in Punjab on a BJP ticket. He won the election and held the seat till 2014. He later became a Rajya Sabha member on April 28, 2016. In 2017, he joined the Congress and was elected to the Punjab Assembly from Amritsar East.

He has also been frequently attacked for keeping friendly relations with Pakistan. When he was invited to the oath taking ceremony of the newly elected Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, he claimed that Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pakistani Army Chief, had assured him of opening the Kartarpur corridor before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak. Subsequently, Pakistan in September 2018, decided to open the Kartarpur corridor before the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak for visa-free entry of Sikhs from India to Pakistan. Sidhu appreciated his cricket friend Imran Khan’s efforts for taking such a great step.