By Rahil Nora Chopra
Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi has declared Charanjit Singh Channi as the CM face of the Congress in Punjab, marking a departure from the party’s tradition of declaring the leader after the election. The decision was taken days after the Congress high command had sought people’s opinion to decide its chief ministerial candidate in Punjab through IVR (Interactive Voice Response) calls. By projecting Channi, the party aims to dismiss the impression that Congress is a divided house. It also banks on the choice of helping the party gain the Dalit community votes that constitute 33 per cent of Punjab’s electorate, a big chunk of which the Congress is hoping to pocket in the polls, and help it overcome the anti-incumbency. It is to be noted that Channi is the first Dalit CM of Punjab. Rahul said that the Congress normally did not announce a CM candidate beforehand, but would go ahead with doing so if the party, its workers and Punjab, the state required this. Both Channi and Sidhu had assured him that they would accept the decision of the party and would work together, he said. Race is now on within the party over who the Jat face would be after the Assembly elections. After the exit of former CM Capt Amarinder Singh, churning has begun within the party on filling the vacuum in the Jat leadership. After Channi’s elevation as the CM, Sukjinder Randhawa (Jat face) and OP Soni (Hindu face) were elevated as his deputies. Sidhu, also a Jat face, is already the PCC chief. Over the last few assembly elections, Jat Sikhs, who constitute 18% of the state population, have backed the SAD-BJP alliance more and, more recently, even the AAP. The Congress has failed to consolidate the Jat Sikh voters in the last three polls and may lose them again due to Channi’s elevation, as the community may feel that it is losing its politically dominant status. The Punjab Assembly Election 2022 will be held in a single phase on February 20 for 117 constituencies. The counting of votes will take place on 10 March 2022.
GOA CONGRESS CANDIDATES SWEAR NOT TO DEFECT IF ELECTED
The Congress leader and Wayanad MP Rahul Gandhi campaigned for his party in Goa, and all the candidates from the Congress-Goa Forward alliance in Goa took oath on the Constitution not to defect or resign from the party in the course of their five-year term as legislators, if elected. The oath was administered in the presence of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who was on a day-long tour in the poll-bound state, where elections are scheduled to be held on 14 February. In 2017, the Congress won 17 of 40 seats in Goa but the BJP, after winning 13 seats, took power with help from smaller parties and independents. Two years later, 15 Congress MLAs switched to the BJP, led by the Congress’s leader of opposition, Babu Kavlekar, who was made Deputy Chief Minister by the BJP. Rahul Gandhi took out a door-to-door campaign at Sada, Mormugao before his meeting with candidates. Goa will vote on February 14. The counting of votes will take place on March 10.
PRIYANKA BATS FOR WOMEN & CONSTITUTION IN HIJAB CONTROVERSY
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra has tweeted on the hijab controversy raging in Karnataka. The Congress general secretary said that it is a woman’s right to decide what she wants to wear. And that the right has been guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. Gandhi-Vadra wrote that “a woman can choose to wear a bikini, a ghoonghat, a pair of jeans or a hijab”, if she so wishes, but nothing can stop her from getting an education, which is her right mandated by the constitution. The comments come amid the ongoing hijab row in Karnataka owing to which all educations institutions have been shut for three days. Priyanka linked the issue with the Congress’s poll slogan of women empowerment in Uttar Pradesh: ‘Ladki hoon, lad sakti hoon’. The Congress has been supporting the protesting students with former Karnataka chief minister Siddaramaiah, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi, ShashiTharoor extending their support to the cause. “By letting students’ hijab come in the way of their education, we are robbing the future of the daughters of India. Ma Saraswati gives knowledge to all. She doesn’t differentiate,” Rahul had tweeted earlier. On the other hand BJP’s Amit Malviya had tweeted, “Is the right to wear a hijab a Constitutional right? Religious freedom under Art 25 is subject to Constitutional morality and the State can legitimately restrict it on grounds of public order and morality. What if women in uniformed services start demanding right to wear hijab?”
MAHARASHTRA CONGRESS DEMANDS APOLOGY FROM PM MODI
During a debate session in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took potshots at the Congress. The PM alleged that during the Covid-19 pandemic’s first wave, when people were following lockdown protocols, the “Congress was busy in frightening away the masses at railway stations in Mumbai and scaring off innocent labourers, telling them of dire consequences of their stay in city under such critical situation and also coax them into fleeing to their native states”. Local Congress workers staged a demonstration outside Union minister Nitin Gadkari’s residence in Nagpur on Thursday, demanding an apology from PM Modi for allegedly insulting Maharashtra by suggesting that it had caused the spread of Covid-19 in other states. On the other hand, workers of the BJP also gathered at the place to counter the Congress’s protest. Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole also said that his party would continue to stage protests every day until the prime minister apologised to the people of Maharashtra.
ASSEMBLY POLLS AFOOT, BUT BIHAR OPPOSITION ALLIANCE STILL INFIGHTING
With the upcoming elections for 24 legislative council seats in Bihar around the corner, the Opposition grand alliance partners, RJD and Congress, are once again fighting with each other. They fought during the by-polls to two assembly seats last year and contested separately. Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, RJD leader, categorically asserted that his party has no truck with Congress in Bihar and declared that his party had selected candidates for all 23 Legislative Council seats, while leaving Bhagalpur for the Left parties. While Congress legislature party (CLP) leader Ajit Sharma said that his party would field nominees in all 24 seats. (IPA Service)