Mr Channi, in his late fifties, is also a welcome change of a young chief minister in a state whose previous two leaders were far older
In a different set of circumstances, we in India would have noticed and reacted to the rise of Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi very differently.
For the first time since Independence, Punjab, which has the highest number of proportionate Dalit population in India for any state (of nearly 32 per cent), has its first Dalit Chief Minister. Yet, we have largely appraised it as an inter-party conflict which threw up a compromise candidate acceptable to both the basic rivals – previous CM Capt. Amarinder Singh and his bête noire Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Mr Channi, in his late fifties, is also a welcome change of a young chief minister in a state whose previous two leaders were far older. Sometimes, for a larger disruption to take place, circumstances have to fortuitous; and even if he was an accidental CM, benefitting from a rivalry between political heavyweights, it is still welcome as a final outcome – Punjab has a young Dalit Chief Minister.
It is laudatory of the Congress party, and its leader Rahul Gandhi, to have stood by him, despite political risks of internal disruption by an irascible Sidhu, just a week ahead of elections.
It must speak of his acumen, in this briefest of tenures so far, that he has been able to reduce a part of the anti-incumbency of his party’s government, and has been able to bring Mr Sidhu and others to publicly back him and promise to put up a unified fight in the elections slated for a few days later.
Whether Mr Channi goes on to lead his party to a victory, or loses, and therefore, would be a long-term Chief Minister with a possible full term ahead, or would remain a footnote as an interregnum, would be decided by the people of Punjab.
But a poor Dalit rising to the highest political chair by him is a reason for celebration.