From Buses to Bureaucracy, Team Sidhu-Channi Rushes to Clip Captain's Clout Before Poll Code Takes Effect

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Travelling from Chandigarh to Chamkaur Sahib and Ludhiana, one cannot miss the hoardings of former Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh dotting the entire landscape.

There’s one in fact on the road just around the corner from new CM Charanjit Singh Channi’s residence in Kharar. For years now, Captain has been the only face of the Congress in Punjab’s hoardings. He stares at you in advertisements at the back of every Punjab roadways bus. But chances are that by the time you read this report, these hoardings would have been replaced by new ones that feature Charanjit Channi and Navjot Singh Sidhu.

ALSO READ: Punjab Politics Travels From Captain’s Farm House to Channi’s Tent House

The new government is on an overdrive to remove Captain’s hoardings with some being taken down in Ludhiana already. The effort seems to remove “the source of anger amongst people”, as a local politician in Ludhiana told News18. On September 22, the transport department of Punjab also ordered that advertisements featuring Captain be taken down from state buses and replaced with Channi’s pictures since he is now the new Chief Minister.

Navjot Singh Sidhu, Charanjit Channi
Navjot Singh Sidhu, Charanjit Channi

“All election campaign hoardings will feature two faces — Channi and Sidhu,” a source told News18, adding that there are hundreds of Captain’s hoardings across the state extolling various ‘achievements’ of his government. A former minister close to Captain said that with such acts, “further humiliation is being heaped on the former CM”.

Clean Up in Bureaucracy, Cabinet Too

The clean-up is being done in bureaucracy and political class, too, with Captain loyalists expected to be weeded out. The likes of senior minister Brahm Mohindra were dropped at the last minute from contention for deputy CM post on Sidhu’s objection and at least four other ministers loyal to Amarinder may not find a place in the new Cabinet which is to be announced later this week, sources in the Congress told News18 in Chandigarh.

Amarinder Singh
Amarinder Singh

In the bureaucracy, changes may start right at the top with DGP Dinkar Gupta under the scanner. His wife and chief secretary Vini Mahajan, who was handpicked for the post by Amarinder Singh in June last year, was replaced on Thursday with Anirudh Tiwari who was serving as additional chief secretary (development). A big reshuffle of district SSPs and DCs could follow too.

ALSO READ: Can’t a ‘Gareeb Aadmi’ Take a Jet Ride, Asks New Punjab CM on Backlash Over ‘Luxury Trip’ to Delhi

“In the next three-four months, before the model code of conduct comes into effect, the government has to move at break-neck speed on delivering various promises. Big steps will be taken very soon — be it in in the sacrilege cases, scraping the Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) or catching the big fish in the drug trade — it is best to do so with a new team of police officers and bureaucrats rather than persist with a team that did not deliver in the earlier years,” a Congress politician close to the Sidhu camp said.

Another source argued that it was best “to not have a mole in the system” who leaks secret information to the Captain camp.

Captain Not Impressed

These moves look quite contrary to the Congress’ official stand that the party expected Captain Amarinder Singh to work in the role of a “guardian”. The distrust runs deep on both sides clearly and Captain in a statement on September 22 accused Sidhu of being a ‘super CM’ and undermining Channi with his ostensible interference in Channi’s domain as the CM.

ALSO READ: Won’t Speculate But Have Welcomed His Nationalist Statements: Punjab BJP Chief on Amarinder Singh

“Sidhu is virtually dictating the terms with Channi simply nodding along. I had a very good PPCC president (Sunil Jakhar). I took his advice but he never told me how to run the government,” Captain said. He added that if Sidhu behaves as the “super CM”, the party won’t function. “Under this drama master’s leadership, it would be a big thing if the Congress manages to touch double digits in Punjab polls,” the Captain said in a statement on Wednesday.

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