#MeToo soup: Punjab or UK — where is Channi?

When contacted, the minister said ‘he cannot disclose his location”. The move is being seen as an attempt by Channi to buy time to dodge the heat of the opposition parties on the issue.

punjab Updated: Oct 30, 2018 09:39 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Charanjit Singh Channi,#MeToo,punjab
Charanjit Singh Channi(HT file)

With opposition parties trying to corner the state government over “inappropriate text messages” sent by technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi to a woman IAS officer, the minister has secretly landed in Kharar even as he and his personal staff claim that he was still in the United Kingdom.

Channi, whose UK visit was to end on Monday, told HT at 5:30pm that he has decided to postpone his foreign visit and would return on November 2. When HT learnt that he has already landed at his house in Kharar, this correspondent contacted him again and Channi said “he cannot disclose his location”. “I never said that I was in the UK. Actually, I was in Belarus and I can’t disclose my location. Whenever I will arrive, I will meet you first,” he said.

The move is being seen as an attempt by Channi to buy time to dodge the heat of the opposition parties on the issue, which will also give him more time to strategise. His personal assistant said the minister would arrive in Punjab after November 2. “He landed in India two days ago. But we have been told not to disclose his location. He has told us not to disclose his whereabouts till Diwali (November 7),” his aide said.

On Tuesday, Channi was scheduled to hold various meetings with his department officials to discuss functioning of Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs). All these meetings have been cancelled now, an official said.

Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, who was on a visit to Israel and is currently in Turkey on a vacation, is also likely to arrive in India on November 2. When the issue reached the media, Amarinder had issued a statement from Israel, saying “the issue was settled to the satisfaction of the complainant”.

“Only he knew the gravity of the matter as the chief minister has already admitted that he has settled the issue to the satisfaction of the IAS officer. This means Channi’s future is purely in the hands of Amarinder now. Only the CM has to take a call on Channi,” a senior minister said.

In-charge of party’s affairs in Punjab, Asha Kumari, has already defended Channi, questioning the absence of a written complaint. “Sending inappropriate messages cannot be compared with the sexual harassment at work,” Kumari had told the media last week.

Before making a public appearance after coming back from the UK, Channi’s strategy is to first meet the chief minister.

Channi had stated that text from his phone was sent to the officer inadvertently and the issue was settled after he apologised to the officer. He had termed raking up of the “small and settled issue” as a political conspiracy against him.

The minister’s conduct was brought to the notice of the state authorities by the IAS officer who complained to a senior functionary of the government about a month ago and then the matter reached the chief minister.

The opposition, SAD-BJP and the AAP, has been demanding immediate sacking of the minister.

First Published: Oct 30, 2018 09:38 IST