In Makrona Kalan near Punjab’s Kharar, locals eagerly introduce you to a small single-storey dilapidated house in the village. “This is where Punjab’s first Dalit Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi was born. It is all destiny,” reminisces Jaswant Singh who lives next door.
The house is in bad shape and no one lives here anymore. But this is the house that Channi referred to in his first press conference as Chief Minister on Monday, when he said he was born in a house that had no proper roof and whose walls had to be patched with mud by his mother.
“My father had a small tent house, I used to drive a rickshaw,” Channi recalled of his roots.
About 40 km away from here is the Siswan Farmhouse, the private residence of the former CM and Patiala royal scion, Captain Amarinder Singh. The politics of Punjab also seems to have travelled from Siswan farmhouse to Makrona Kalan, a Maharaja making way for a pauper as the CM.
Recalling his roots, Channi had mentioned that he was born in a house that had no proper roof and whose walls had to be patched with mud by his mother. (News18)
Posters and hoardings of Channi along with Navjot Singh Sidhu have come up all over Kharar and en route to Makrona Kalan.
Beeline at Kharar House
A full convoy, complete with jammers and bullet-proof vehicles, had filled up the narrow Gurudwara Road in Kharar town where Charanjit Singh Channi presently lives in a white-coloured bungalow with his family. Channi was here on Tuesday morning before leaving for Delhi. His wife Kamaljeet Kaur is busy fielding good wishes and a stream of bouquets and sweets. “It is a surprise for us all,” Kaur told News18, saying they were preparing for the wedding of their son Navjeet on October 10 when the news came in.
A decorative gate at the house is in fact for the wedding and invitation cards sent out mentioned Channi as a cabinet minister and not the CM. “I have to do double the job as he is very busy after becoming CM,” she says.
Kaur is a doctor at the local ESI hospital in Kharar and recounts how her entire family is made up of government employees — Channi’s elder brother is an engineer-in-chief and his wife is a bank employee, Channi’s younger brother and sister-in-law are both doctors and his sisters are government employees too.
Festive atmosphere at Channi’s present Kharar town residence (News18)
“His father started with a small tent house here in Kharar when they moved here. He also helped his father in the small business. From a small beginning, the family has made it big through sheer hard work,” she says.
The challenges of becoming the CM of Punjab are, however, slowly dawning on the family. Police security has been beefed up here, metal detectors have come up and people are also lining up here with demands and requests. A disabled person approached Kaur on Monday, saying he wanted a job. Then, a group of agitating youth of the PSTET Union reached the house to raise their demand for an examination which has not been held for the last three years. Channi had on Monday asked all agitating state government employees to return to work, promising to resolve their problems in a short time, citing that his family had government employees too.
A Memorial for a Martyr
Things are much quieter though in Makrona Kalan as nobody from the Channi family lives here anymore, but villagers still have tales to recall of his childhood and the family. The villagers show a memorial maintained by the Channi family for Shaheed Baba Hari Singh, who died in the battle of Chamkaur. Locals say the family deeply believes in him and gave up some of their land for the memorial.
“Whenever a happy occasion is there in the family, the Channi family comes here to pay obeisance. It is all due to the martyr’s blessings that such success has come to Channi,” says Prakash Singh, who lives next door to Channi’s old house. Channi’s parents passed away some years ago.
“It is all Channi’s hard work and destiny. Reaching a CM post from where he started is not a mean feat. He has an amenable way of talking too — that is his special quality,” says Shamsher Singh, another local, who retired from the BSF.
Bhupinder Singh, Channi’s nephew, told News18 in Kharar that the CM plans to keep his simplicity intact. “He has mentioned how he keeps a pair of bedding always in his car so that he can start his day early and tour the state widely,” Singh says.
Word in Makrona Kalan is that Channi must be Chief Minister if the Congress wins in Punjab next year. “His work and simplicity will win people’s hearts over the next five months. People will vote for him,” say the villagers.