Among the many “under-matric” and “matric-pass” MLAs of Punjab is someone who has majored in politics by adding educational degrees to his profile. When Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi was choosing a leader of opposition for Punjab in December 2015, Charanjit Singh Channi’s impressive tally of degrees --- bachelor in law and MBA --- came handy besides his Dalit credentials.
After three back-to-back wins in the assembly polls, Channi is now the technical education minister in the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government. However, he needs to pass another exam. “I appeared for final semester exams for masters in political science in December at the Panjab University. I am waiting for the results,” he says.
Taking the exams was not easy though. It came between hectic lobbying for party tickets at New Delhi and Channi, as Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader, had no choice but to be present at the marathon meetings of the ticket screening committee. “During one of the papers, I studied in my car on the way to Chandigarh from Delhi at night and took the exam without sleeping,” he says.
Till the results are out, he has already filled the form for diploma in human rights. What’s more, Channi is also preparing to take an exam to pursue PhD course at PU. The idea of going for a doctorate is as compelling as the topic for him. “I want to do my PhD on the Indian National Congress,” he says.
While some may find it amusing as the Congress space in national politics is shrinking though it has scripted a stunning victory in Punjab, Channi’s rise in politics has been mercurial, courtesy Congress.
The law graduate first became an independent MLA after the Congress denied him a ticket in 2007 polls, Channi then enrolled in an MBA programme at the Punjab Technical University (PTU) in human resources. He completed the two-year course in 2009. His next victory came in 2012 assembly polls -- this time on a Congress ticket. He then enrolled for his MA in political science at PU.
As minister, Channi wants to revise the fee structure to ensure poor students do not miss out on technical education in government owned colleges, institutes and universities. “The course fee in government institute is as high as private ones. No wonder nearly 50% seats in many ITIs are vacant. We will also change the course and the syllabus to make them more industry-specific so that they get jobs after coming out of ITIs like they do after IITs,” he says.