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Was never in CM race, but refused deputy CM chair: Punjab Congress ex-chief Sunil Jakhar

Former MP Sunil Jakhar says Congress needs unity, in the wake of Captain Amarinder Singh’s resignation as CM and the battle that led to Charanjit Channi’s appointment.

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New Delhi: A day after the Congress decided to appoint Charanjit Singh Channi as the chief minister of Punjab to replace Captain Amarinder Singh, former state party chief Sunil Jakhar, who was also considered to be in the running for the chair, said he had actually never been part of the race. However, he did decline the role of deputy CM offered to him, Jakhar told ThePrint.

There was speculation before Channi’s appointment Sunday about whether a Hindu leader like Jakhar or Ambika Soni or a Jatt Sikh leader like Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa or state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu would be made CM. Eventually, the party came to a consensus on Channi’s name, making him the first Dalit Sikh CM of the state.

On Monday, Jakhar tweeted a press clipping of a statement by the Akal Takht jathedar Dhian Singh Mand, in which he had said “Sikh hona ya Hindu hona secondary hota hai”.

Echoing the same thought, Jakhar said it didn’t matter if a Sikh or a Hindu was made chief minister — the entire Congress party should unite ahead of the elections. Jakhar, a three-time former MLA from Abohar and former MP from Gurdaspur, said his tweet was a reflection of his concerns as a Congressman.

Asked if he was disappointed about losing out on the CM’s chair, he said: “How can I withdraw myself from the race or be rejected when I never even entered the race? I have never approached anyone in the Congress high command for a post. I am not even an MLA.”

However, he said he was indebted to his colleagues for considering him a CM candidate. “For me, politics is to earn people’s respect and serve people,” he added.

On why he refused the deputy CM’s role offered to him, Jakhar said he “did not need the frills of being a deputy CM”, and that he considered the post lower than that of the PCC chief, which he had held until July.

“How could I hold a position which is something below than what I have held in the past? I am not asking for any position; I don’t need the frills of a deputy CM,” said Jakhar.

Also read: Behind-the-scene drama: How Sidhu scotched Jakhar’s & Randhawa’s chance before agreeing on Channi

‘Elections will be fought in Rahul & Sonia Gandhi’s name’

Earlier in the day, Jakhar had hit out at the Congress’ Punjab in-charge Harish Rawat for his statement that the elections would be fought in Sidhu’s name instead of new CM Channi’s.

Calling Rawat’s statement “baffling”, Jakhar had said these words would only undermine Channi’s authority and negate the very reason for his selection as chief minister.

Explaining his outburst, Jakhar said his stand was vindicated when the Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala addressed a press conference and said both Channi and Sidhu would be the party’s faces, and Rawat had to backtrack. Sources close to Jakhar told ThePrint that ever since Rawat was made the Punjab in-charge, the two had not gotten along and kept a distance.

Jakhar said that in the history of the Congress, a CM face had never been announced before elections, except Amarinder Singh in 2017, and that the polls would anyway be fought in Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi’s names.

Asked if having two power centres in Channi and Sidhu would hamper the Congress’ prospects, Jakhar said: “Unity has done no harm to anyone ever. And at present, unity is the need of the hour in the party.”

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: After Punjab change of guard, Chhattisgarh ‘CM aspirant’ T.S. Singh Deo rushes to Delhi


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