Charanjit Singh Channi is the new Chief Minister of Punjab

The new Chief Minister of Punhjab, Mr. Charanjit Singh Channi came to the Punjab Bhawan, riding pillion on a motorcycle driven by Sunil Jakhar, former chief of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) in an image befitting of man known as the ‘saviour of the Dalits.’

Once a youth leader, active in student politics, Mr.Channi, 58, went onto become a lawyer, management graduate, and a seasoned politicianin charge of the Technical Educational and Industrial Training ministry in the state, before being appointed to the top job, based on his strong connect with the masses.

Much before Congress leaders in Punjab ahd begun to brew a revolt against outgoing long-time CM Capt. Amarinder Singh, Mr. Channi, who hails from the Ramdasia community, had been seeking a greater representation of Dalits in the government, which he may now fulfil.

Capt. Amarinder Singh formally submitted his resignation on Saturday.

Ironically, it was the erstwhile CM who had paved the way for Mr. Channi three years after he had rebelled against Congress nominee for Chamkaur Sahib in 2007.

He fought and won the seat as an independent, and went on to become an associate member of the Shiromani Akali Dal in the Assembly. After his return, he for the most part stayed away from the infighting and turmoil that befell the current dispensation, but was vocal about Dalit issues which be felt needed to be better represented and paid attention to, as a larger part of the supposed failings of the Singh government.

The two-time chief minister’s exit is largely being seen as the culmination of the turmoil between him and newly appointed Punjab Congress president Navjot Singh Sidhu that saw several cabinet ministers and MLAs side with the former over non-fulfilment of promises by the Singh Cabinet.

Mr. Channi, known for his humility, often driving his car himself, and paying the toll tax like any citizen, also has a great love of academia, evidenced by his multiple degrees.

Sidhu on Sunday lauded the development, as he tweeted, “Historic !! Punjab’s first Dalit CM-Designate … Will be written with Golden letters in History. A tribute to the spirit of the Constitution and the Congress !!”  

Mr. Channi will take oath at 11 am on Monday.