Chandigarh: Fifty-eight-year-old Charanjit Singh Channi, who went from erecting tents in Kharar to being a three-time MLA, will be the first Dalit Sikh to become chief minister of Punjab.
Channi was among the four cabinet ministers who had led the protest that led to Captain Amarinder Singh’s resignation as CM.
On a tumultuous day in Chandigarh, Channi was vying for a deputy CM post, but his name was finalised for the top chair after a fight broke out between cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, who was considered the frontrunner, and state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Randhawa’s name seemed all but finalised in the afternoon, but following vehement opposition from Sidhu, the party agreed to install a Dalit Sikh as CM, and Channi’s name was confirmed. He is set to take oath at 11 am Monday, and is likely to have two deputy CMs in his cabinet.
Channi, who hails from the Ramdasia Sikh community, was the leader of the opposition in the Punjab assembly from 2015 to 2016. He was one of the younger members of Amarinder Singh’s cabinet, but has been a critic of the outgoing CM for a while. As technical education minister, Channi had been opposing constant interference by the CMO in his work. He has been opposed to private universities coming up in the state, but most of his objections have been ignored.
Channi, the MLA from Chamkaur Sahib constituency in Rupnagar district, is known for his penchant for educating himself. A law graduate from Panjab University, Chandigarh, and an MBA from Punjab Technical University, Jalandhar, Channi completed a master’s degree in political science while he was the leader of opposition, and is currently pursuing a PhD.
He first became an MLA as an independent in 2007, when the Congress denied him a ticket. He won again in 2012, this time on a Congress ticket, and then again in 2017.
Known to be soft-spoken and humble, Channi belongs to a lower middle class family of village Makrona Kalan in Chamkaur Sahib. His family shifted to Malaysia to look for work, but returned to Kharar and started a tent house, in which he worked as a boy who helped put up tents.
He completed his matriculation at Kharar and even excelled in sports. His father Harsa Singh became the village sarpanch and Channi followed him into politics.
He joined municipal politics in Kharar and remained councillor for three terms before becoming the president of municipal council for two terms.
In Amarinder Singh’s government, as cabinet minister of employment generation (along with technical education and science & technology), Channi has been at the forefront of organising rozgar melas (employment fairs) across the state for the past few years to meet the party’s election promise.
His brother Dr Manohar Singh is a medical specialist working with the Punjab government. Another brother, Sukhwant Singh Sukhi, contested the Kharar municipal council polls in February this year and lost by 12 votes.
Inappropriate text messages controversy
In 2018, Channi got into trouble when a woman IAS officer of the Punjab cadre complained that he had sent her inappropriate messages.
Channi remained quiet through the controversy. However, it was alleged that constantly taking on the CM had landed him in a spot.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
(This article has been updated to correct Charanjit Singh Channi’s age to 58.)
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