An air of mystery persists over former Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s whereabouts as he disappeared from public appearances after his government was voted out of power in the Assembly elections swept by the Aam Aadmi Party.
The Dalit Congress leader did not show up during the crucial Sangrur Lok Sabha bypoll, which was eventually won by SAD (Amritsar) leader Simranjit Singh Mann, nor has he made a public comment over the Health Minister pulling up his sister-in-law and transferring her.
Congress sources told the Indian Express that earlier Channi was in the United States and now in Canada. Although he remains in touch with a few leaders, the three-time MLA from Chamkaur Sahib does not seem to be actively involved in party issues.
“He calls up a few colleagues sometimes and talks about the party’s activities. The other day, he called up a Punjab PCC leader and assured him he would be back soon and would be back in the loop,” Indian Express quoted a source as saying.
A Congress leader said that with the electorate in Sangrur showing signals of AAP losing, it was the best time for the Congress to have struck and Channi was expected to be in action. “…after all he is our former CM. But he did not turn up,” he said.”
The Congress’s Punjab unit chief, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, said the former CM’s absence at this point was “unfortunate”. “He did not inform the party unit while leaving India, nor do we know about his return plans. His absence from Punjab and the party’s activities at such a crucial point is unfortunate,” Warring told ThePrint.
Another Congress leader had said that Channi might have gone into a “political exile” for various reasons including – defeat in assembly polls, being linked to the illegal sand mining controversy, and not being given an official post in the Congress’ Punjab unit.
Channi’s younger brother, Manohar Singh, said that he was abroad to attend important functions. “Since early May, he has been outside India, mostly travelling in the USA and Canada. His wife (Kamaljit Kaur) is with him. They had to attend several important functions in those countries where they have friends and relatives,” he told ThePrint.
However, speaking to The Tribune on August 5 over the phone, Channi dismissed accounts of political exile and said, “There is no FIR or summons against me. I am abroad for my medical treatment and would be back soon.”
A report in The Federal notes that the former Punjab CM has kept away from opining on even important issues in the party on Twitter as he has tweeted only 11 times since March 10, when the assembly poll results were announced, about Holi, Hola Mohalla, BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, and condoling the demise of budding party leader and Punjabi singer Sidhu Moosewala, who was gunned down by a gang in Mansa this May.