One of the unusual traits of the new Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is his quest to keep his formal education going. For someone who has a formal Masters in Business Administration Degree, Channi is pursuing a doctorate from Punjab University.
For a person who cut his political teeth taking part in municipal elections, his rise remained steady till he was catapulted to the top political post in the State in difficult circumstances, stepping into the shoes of Captain Amarinder Singh whose presence reflected the aura around his persona.
Considered a soft-spoken person with inclination to pick up language skills, Channi is honing his Urdu, which is widely read in Punjab especially among the senior citizens and finds patronage among connoisseurs of art and literature.
A resident of Kharar town at the outskirts of Chandigarh, Channi served as the Municipal Councilor for two terms and three as its Chairman before shifting to Punjab Assembly in 2007 from Chamkaur Sahib, a constituency under which his native village. His father served as a Sarpanch and the family runs a business. Married to Dr Kamaljit Kaur, the couple have two sons.
Ever since his transition to the legislature, Channi moved up gradually and during his second term, a bonanza came his way. Around 2015, internal tussle in the Congress resulted in his elevation as the Leader of the Opposition, a position that gave him a higher profile among the fellow members.
For the past two days, a video has been circulating on social media showing how the then Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal was cornering Channi mocking the performance of previous Amarinder Singh Government.
At one point, Sukhbir Badal asks Channi, please tell how many new roads were built and in response to some figure, the Akalis taunt that the network of state highways were during the Badal regime. Channi eventually wriggles out through a smart remark.
His appointment has already overturned political calculations of other parties who were keen to play the Dalit card in the elections. BSP Chief Mayawati while congratulating Channi described the move as a poll gimmick.
At a time the Congress was basking under glory on its move, the BJP through its IT Cell sent a subtle reminder of a serious ‘Me Too” charge leveled by a bureaucrat for sending inappropriate messages, for which he apologised, indicating the CM would remain under its scanner.
The new Chief Minister would need to employ tact in dealing with difficult situations his government would face from within the party and outside. Ahead of the swearing-in, Channi paid obeisance at his constituency Gurdwara seeking blessings from the Guru and back at the Secretariat took the Chief Minister’s chair with PCC Chief Navjot Sidhu flanking him.
Besides his inquisitiveness to learn, Channi dabbled in sports playing handball at the national level winning medals at University championships. While he may not be required to exhibit the sleight of hand demonstrated on the court, the new Chief Minister would need team play to stay the course.