Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, OP Soni take oath as deputies to Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi
Chandigarh Punjab Congress leaders Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and O P Soni were sworn in as two deputies to Charanjit Singh Channi, who took oath as chief minister, at Raj Bhawan on Monday.
Son of former Congress president Santokh Singh and a resident of Dharowali village in Gurdaspur, Randhawa is a three-time legislator who currently represents Dera Baba Nanak assembly constituency in the district.
The 62-year-old had led the tirade against former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh and sought his ouster over unfulfilled poll promises, particularly action against those who were involved in incidents of desecration of Guru Granth Sahib as well as police firing on those protesting the same in 2015 when the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) - Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine was in power.
Randhawa had also raised the issue of bureaucrats’ dominance in the Amarinder-led government and sought a better representation of elected representatives in running of the state’s affairs.
He was also a part of the section of Congress leaders that facilitated the elevation of Navjot Singh Sidhu, a bitter critic of Singh, as state Congress chief. However, when Randhawa’s name was floated for the post of CM, Sidhu opposed it, and put his weight behind Channi.
The Congress leader from Majha heartland was in fact among four frontrunners for the top job in the state after Singh stepped down from the post on Saturday. He, however, had to settle for the deputy chief minister’s role after Channi was selected for the top post.
Randhawa was first elected as an MLA from Fatehgarh Churian in 2002 when he fought against SAD’s Nirmal Singh Kahlon. He was, however, defeated by Kahlon in 2007. He shifted to Dera Baba Nanak constituency from where he registered consecutive wins in 2012 and 2017.
Besides Randhawa, the party high command picked five-time Amritsar MLA Soni as the second deputy to the chief minister. One of the tallest Hindu leaders who rose from the ranks, Soni was the first mayor of the holy city.
The 64-year-old was first elected as MLA in 1997 and always emerged victorious in the assembly elections. The only time he lost was in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, by a narrow margin, to then BJP leader Sidhu.
A staunch Amarinder loyalist, Soni, however, was upset with the former chief minister when he was not given a berth in his (Singh) first cabinet in March 2017. A year later, he was given the environment and education portfolios but in 2018, he was divested of the environment department.
In the last reshuffle of the Singh’s cabinet, Soni was given a low profile department of medical education to which he had shown great resentment.
He is quite a popular leader in Amritsar due to his polite and friendly nature.