If the outgoing Badal government was known for lavish spending on oath-taking ceremonies and inaugurations of heritage streets and memorials, the message of the new government of Captain Amarinder Singh is every penny counts in debt-stressed Punjab.
Amarinder and members of his cabinet will be administered oath by Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore at the Raj Bhawan on Thursday morning. The Raj Bhawan will host the swearing-in of the chief minister after a gap of 15 years.
The ceremony will be a low-key affair, but high on symbolism. “As a measure of austerity, the ceremony will be simple and not ostentatious. No unnecessary or wasteful expenditure will be incurred and his government was committed to bail the state out of financial distress into which it had been plunged by the previous dispensation. Each small step will count towards ensuring that every possible rupee is saved at this critical juncture,” the CM- designate said in a statement on Tuesday.
The Captain has asked the newly elected MLAs to keep their personal invitations to the bare minimum. He also asked them to ensure that their supporters also show similar restraint, and not clog the roads.
Giving credit to the party high command for the victory, Amarinder called on Rahul at his residence on Tuesday to thank and invite him to be a part of the ceremony. He also told mediapersons later that it was time to elevate Rahul to the post of Congress president. “Rahul has agreed to attend the swearing-in,” AICC general secretary in-charge for Punjab, Asha Kumari, told HT.
An official said 1,200 invites have been sent to dignitaries including Himachal chief minister Virbhadra Singh to attend the ceremony. A ‘shamiana’ is being put up on the front lawn of the Raj Bhawan. However, to ensure Thursday’s event is not rained out like the Badnore’s oath taking, water proof tents and other precautions are being taken, said an official.
CAPT CHALLANGE: REGION, RELIGION BALANCE
Since the Congress has won across the three regions of Malwa, Majha and Doaba and all the three major communities of Jat Sikhs, Hindus and Dalits, the challenge for the party and Amarinder would be to strike a balance between the three regions and communities.
Rahul is likely to suggest name of four-time MP and Amritsar East MLA Navjot Singh Sidhu for post of deputy CM. Rahul had played a role in Sidhu’s entry and the latter is being credited for party’s stellar show in Majha.
From Malwa, four-time MLA Manpreet Badal, who, too, enjoys a direct connect with Rahul, is a frontrunner for the post of finance minister. Party sources said some of Rahul’s young turks also may find a place in Amarinder’s cabinet.
(With inputs from Arvind Chhabra)