After an internal conflict between Punjab Congress in September, the party-appointed a new CM Charanjit Singh Channi. It was a surprising decision. He has just completed 3 months of his term in office before the upcoming state polls in February-March 2022.
He has the responsibility to display good governance and a potential bid for power in the polls. The responsibility is more serious because he succeeded Captain Amarinder Singh who was not able to find a solution to the internal party conflict.
6 major challenges are surrounding his term as the CM of Punjab
Dealing with Captain Amrinder Singh’s term in office
The first challenge for CM Channi is to deal with the legacy of Captain Amrinder Singh’s term of 4 and a half years. There was criticism for inactivity and not fulfilling the promises he made before the polls. Captain Amrinder Singh made several promises and raised many important issues before the polls. He expressed his commitment to fulfilling the promises and finding solutions to major problems of the state. The promises included eradication of drugs, reducing power bills, loan waiving for farmers, providing employment, and much more.
All these problems remained, and he had to face a revolt from his party people against him. Many party people complained that they could not meet him owing to powerful bureaucrats around him.
After taking up the office, CM Channi made big and popular decisions to bring back popularity for Congress. He has also promised to take strict action against the sensitive sacrilege cases. He also booked Akali leader Bikram Singh Majithia for his alleged involvement in a drug case.
The Badals of Shiromani Akali Dal run the Public Transport Service in the state that flourished under their government. The minister of the CM has taken against this Public Transport Service that is a threat to the interest of the government. He went on to undo the power purchase agreements signed by the SAD with private power plants. It has made the purchase of power expensive for the state. He conducts weekly meetings of the cabinet and has reduced his security.
All these important actions have been sidelined after two lynchings over alleged sacrilege attempts in Amritsar and Kapurthala, and a bomb blast in Ludhiana. These needs highlighted the need for experienced leaders like Captain Amrinder Singh in this situation.
The police have claimed in the investigation that the blast case has links with Khalistani militants based in Pakistan. Coincidentally, Captain Amrinder Singh warned about the same things in several public statements. He has warned about the security threats and use of drones to the central government too.
On the other side, the close party ally of CM Channi, Navjot Singh Sidhu has always acknowledged his friendship with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Can and Navjot Singh Sidhu had also suggested opening the Attari border to Pakistan.
The Navjot Singh Sidhu Angle
Another aspect that has kept the new CM Channi at target is Punjab Congress Chief Navjot Sigh Sidhu. He was in the race to become the CM after his tussle with former CM Captain Amarinder Singh. Also, he is one of the biggest critics of CM Channi.
Navjot Singh Sidhu also reported his disagreement with CM Channi over the appointment with DGP and Advocate General in the state. He resigned from his post over the same and returned only after his choice of officers were appointed.
His interference in the government and administration has become a matter of criticism by the opposition. At the same time, he sets agendas for the new CM through his speeches and tweets. He threatened to go on hunger strike if the government would fail to make the reports on drugs menace to the high court by STF public.
The party high command has also given Navjot Singh Sidhu key positions before elections. The party Ministers are conducting meetings with Mr Sidhu for tickets reducing the control of CM Channi.
Internal Party conflicts for power
There are internal party conflicts in Congress because there are multiple power centres at the top. CM Channi is struggling to keep the Party together before the upcoming polls.
Deputy CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and Cabinet Minister Rana Gurjeet Singh have internal hostility among themselves. Many Ministers have hostilities because they want to exert their influence in some specific decision. Many conflicts have become public owing to the upcoming polls.
Crisis for Funds
The announcements of grants to various sectors in the first month of the CM in office has already been costly for the state treasury. He has reduced electricity rates, petrol and diesel prices, water rates, etc that has cost over 10,000 crores. As per sources, the CM also intends to regulate almost 2 lakh employees. But, he has not passed the decision because the state government cannot afford it financially. He also wants to make some announcements for women, children, the Elderly, and SC-ST. Still, this is not possible owing to the financial conditions of the state.
Multiple Protests in Punjab
There are Multiple ongoing Strikes in Punjab by different officials and sectors in the state. The teachers, Asha Workers, bus service employees, Doctors, and Nurses have been on strike for various demands. Many unions are on strike for better salaries or the regularization of employees. This has become a major political issue before the upcoming polls. They are making their last attempt to get their long-time demands fulfilled by the CM who is finding it difficult to handle it. At many places, there has been the use of water cannons and lathis to move away from the protesters from certain places like rallies. While the opposition has been sharing images of injured protesters and accusing the CM of Cruelty.
The Channi Government is finding it difficult to deal with widespread Corruption. Apart from a few changes, the majority of the Ministers in the cabinet have also been a part of Captain Amrinder Singh’s cabinet. So, many of them have been facing corruption charges, and it can also not avert the anti-incumbency factor.
The Internal conflict in Punjab Congress has become public and there is a need for damage control. The new CM also needs to keep the party intact and display himself as the ideal face of the party for the upcoming polls with a record of good governance. It will be important to see how the new CM handles these challenges before the upcoming state polls.