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Worried that his ‘hurt’ predecessor would chip away some of his party legislators, Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is on an ‘outreach exercise’ to ensure that he keeps the Congress flock together, particularly those seen to be having a soft former towards former CM, Captain Amarinder Singh.

Channi started off with mollifying three-time Mohali MLA Balbir Singh Sidhu with whom he has had strained relations since the last two decades. Balbir Sidhu was a health minister in Amarinder Cabinet but was dropped following change in guards. Channi met Sidhu for almost three hours, after which the latter seemed to have toned down his attack on the new Cabinet.

Channi didn’t stop at this meeting. Sources said the new chief minister is now taking advantage of another personal event, the marriage of his son, scheduled shortly to maximise his outreach to those who would be upset. Informed sources said that Channi has been meeting some legislators and ministers personally ostensibly to invite them for the marriage.

“Such occasions do provide a chance to have some kind of informal heart to heart talk. This he realises and has ensured that he particularly meets those who could be vulnerable,” commented a leader.

The party has been fearing ‘poaching’ bid by Amarinder Singh after he announced that he was parting ways with the Congress but not joining the BJP. What has raised alarm bells in the Channi government is the likelihood of Singh forming his own party and indications that he would target some of his old colleagues in the Congress who have been left out.

“He (Capt) would for sure first target people in the party itself before taking a look around. There are many in the party who, though have toed the line of the high command, have felt uncomfortable with developments preceding the exit of Amarinder,” commented a party leader.

This is why, say sources, Channi was trying to mollify section which could be ‘easy targets’ for Singh to target for his regional front, once he decides to float it. An attempt to keep his flock together will also keep pressure off him from those in PCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu camp. “Will give him a double advantage,” quipped a leader.

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