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In a Congress meeting held on Wednesday, the party refused to announce its Chief Ministerial candidate before crucial Punjab assembly elections 2022. With this, a fresh cold war begins in the already problematic state unit. Three senior leaders, ex PPCC chief Sunil Jakhar, current PPCC chief Navjot Sidhu and Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi are yet again in the race for the top post.

The news came as a big blow to Mr Sidhu, whose long desire to become Chief Minister of Punjab is again at risk. Meanwhile, Mr Channi continues to project himself as the next CM. Jakhar, at the same time, gave a big jolt to party MLAs by announcing that only one member from a family will receive a ticket to contest elections.

‘Will fight under joint leadership’

Sunil Jakhar, Chairman of the Punjab Congress's campaign committee, announced on Wednesday that the party will contest elections under a "joint leadership."

The move is intended at balancing the state's caste dynamics and eliminating infighting in the party. Party's top brass come from different communities which strengthen its hold on various vote banks in Punjab. However, the same could come as a threat in terms of selecting the Chief Ministerial candidate.

Punjab's Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi hails from the Dalit community, party's state head Navjot Singh Sidhu and Deputy CM Sukhjinder Randhawa come from the Jat Sikh community; meanwhile, election campaign committee head Sunil Jakhar and state Deputy CM OP Soni are from the Hindu community.

Punjab is one of the states in the country with the highest proportion of Dalits. According to the 2011 census, the state's population is made up of 31.9 percent Scheduled Castes and 31.3 percent other backward classes (OBCs). Together, the two sections account for 63.2 percent of the entire population. With a Dalit leader to the top post, the party can profit in the Doaba region which has the highest Dalit population in Punjab.

Meanwhile, Sikh and Hindu communities can not be completely ignored in order to gain the majority and retain power. It appears that Congress is making a delicate balance in Punjab.

Congress crisis

Earlier this year, the Punjab Congress was in the midst of a major crisis. Following an open revolt by party leaders that resulted in Amarinder Singh's unceremonious dismissal from the power, Charanjit Singh Channi became the state's first Dalit chief minister.

Sidhu, who spearheaded the attack on Captain during the Punjab Congress crisis was expecting to be named CM. However, this could not happen and consequently, Sidhu was occasionally seen slamming the Channi-led government. 

Meanwhile, Sunil Jakhar who was also hopeful of being named to the top post was disgruntled.

Congress top brass’ reaction on “joint leadership” proposal

Sidhu has demanded the party to name a Chief Ministerial candidate. In an interview with CNN-News18, he remarked, "What's a baraat without a dulha?" He also stressed the need for having the right chief minister to avoid any disaster.

The news of not naming a CM candidate before elections comes as shock to CM Channi too. For the last four months, the leader has been campaigning with his full might to make Congress appear united and strong. 

Meanwhile, Mr Jakhar maintains that the "winnability of a candidate will be the biggest factor in the ticket distribution for the Assembly polls." This time the party will make sure that only one individual from each family receives a ticket to run in elections, stated Mr Jakhar. 

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