Punjab MP CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa: Sikh leader of the Congressional government
Three-time provincial deputy, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa comes from a fanatical congressional family. His father, Santokh Singh, remained President of the Punjab Congress for two terms and is a well-known figure in the Majha region. During Operation Blue Star in 1984, Randhawa was one of a handful of Punjabi leaders who stood alongside then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The 62-year-old man, who represents the assembly constituency of Dera Baba Nanak, is, however, known as a man with his own politics. He was first elected to the Assembly constituency of Fatehgarh Churian in 2002 before moving to Dera Baba Nanak, a Majha constituency touching the Indo-Pakistan border, in 2012, from where he won, repeating the feat in 2017.
Randhawa, who held the prison and cooperation portfolio in Capt Amarinder Singh’s cabinet, is considered a strong panthic leader in Congress despite the baggage of 1984. He often voiced his opinion on the Shiromani Gurdwara committee Parbandhak, Akal Takht’s affairs and other Sikh issues.
Before siding with outgoing state Congress President Navjot Singh Sidhu in the latter’s standoff with Amarinder, Randhawa was seen as a close confidant of the now ousted CM. Prior to the 2017 Assembly elections, Randhawa had supported Amarinder and played an important role in ousting Partap Singh Bajwa, also a leader of Majha and now a member of Rajya Sabha, from the post of head of Congress of the state. Amarinder was named leader of the CPC and is credited with the party’s landslide victory in the 2017 polls. However, it is Randhawa who is credited with the party’s prodigious spectacle in the Majha region where Congress won 22 of 25 seats. of the region comprising four major districts of Amritsar, Pathankot, Gurdaspur and Tarn Taran.
Randhawa is among the few congressional leaders in the Majha region to have spoken openly against Shiromani leader Akali Dal Bikram Singh Majithia during the Akali-BJP government. Amarinder was accused of giving in to Majithia despite forming the government with a brutal majority in 2017. Majithia continued to target Randhawa who played a leading role in prompting 33 congressmen to write a letter to Amarinder demanding measures against the leader of Amarinder. Unlike other MPs, he never compromised with Amarinder over allegations against Majithia, and this became one of the reasons for the differences between them.
In 2018, religious organizations set up a morcha in Bargari to demand action in the 2015 sacrilege cases. The protests, led by Jathedar Dhian Singh Man, have posed a challenge to the Congressional government ahead of the elections. from 2019 to Lok Sabha. Randhawa was one of the ministers who negotiated with Mand and led him to lift the protest, which lasted for four months.
Not one to mince words, Randhawa expressed his anger at the alleged inaction of his own party government on various issues, including cases of sacrilege. While Sidhu has remained mostly silent after the 2019 parliamentary elections, Randhawa held the fort against Amarinder, risking his own place in Cabinet.
Interestingly, Amarinder and Sidhu prevented Randhawa from becoming the chief minister and forced the party’s high command to choose the name of Charanjit Singh Channi on Sunday.