But everything changed in the month of May, as the state's ethnic fault lines cracked open and long-simmering tensions came to the boil.
With the Congress set to announce its Chief Minister candidate for Punjab on Sunday, state party chief and one of the top two contenders, Navjot Singh Sidhu on Friday sparked a controversy saying people at the top want a weak Chief Minister who can dance to their tunes.
“If a new Punjab has to be made, it is in the hands of the Chief Minister. You have to choose the Chief Minister this time. People at the top want a weak Chief Minister who can dance to their tunes – ta ta thaiya. Do you want such a Chief Minister?” Sidhu told his supporters in Punjabi on Thursday.
As speculation is rife that Congress high command is set to play safe and announce the current CM, Charanjit Singh Channi as party’s CM face for the Assembly polls, this comment is being seen as Sidhu’s frustration for losing the race for the post again.
He was one of the contenders for the CM’s post after Captain Amarinder Singh was ousted from the post in September last year but Channi emerged as the choice of the party. Following the latest setback, Sidhu called off his public meetings and cleared out his campaign diary for a snap visit to the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage.
Channi is now seen to have edged past Sidhu in what has been a very public rivalry. The Congress has assigned Channi two constituencies for the February 20 Punjab election, a sign that he may be the party’s choice for Chief Minister and has been given a backup in case he loses in one seat. Rahul Gandhi is likely to announce the name in Ludhiana on Sunday.
The Congress then launched a public poll on who should be the chief ministerial candidate, taking a cue from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi
Party (AAP), which carried out a televote before declaring Bhagwant Mann as its candidate for the top post.
A call from the Congress plays a recorded message in Punjabi prompting listeners to press a key to vote from three options. Channi’s name has been placed at number one, followed by Sidhu’s. The third option asks whether Congress should go without a Chief Minister face.
Meanwhile, Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu said her husband is a hero and it does not matter whom the party chooses its face in the state for the polls.