Former minister Tota Singh, Rupnagar MLA Daljit Singh Cheema and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS) Sohan Singh Thandal have been chosen by Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal and deputy CM Sukhbir Badal to be inducted into the state cabinet on Tuesday.
Tota Singh had to resign as a cabinet minister after he was indicted in a disproportionate assets case two years ago and was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. He had appealed in the Punjab and Haryana high court, where the sentence has been stayed for the time being.
In another case, related to irregularities in the recruitment of 134 clerks in the Punjab School Education Board during Tota Singh’s tenure as education minister in the SAD-BJP government (1997-2002), he is facing trial. Tota Singh was the agriculture minister when he had resigned after his indictment in May 2012.
The name of Thandal, a prominent Dalit leader from Doaba, was already doing the rounds as a replacement for Sarwan Singh Phillaur, who had resigned from the cabinet recently after his son’s name cropped up in the drug racket. Cheema, though a first-time MLA, became an obvious choice, being a close confidant of the Badals.
After the CM’s recommendation, governor Shivraj Patil has consented to induct the three MLAs into the cabinet. Patil would administer the oath of office and secrecy to the newly-inducted ministers at Punjab Raj Bhawan.
Earlier, Mohinder Kaur Josh, Gurbachan Singh Babbehali, Hari Singh Zira and NK Sharma were considered to be among the frontrunners for cabinet berths.
Sources said Zira’s name was dropped as he had been associated with late Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra, once regarded as Parkash Singh Badal’s political opponent. In Babbehali’s case, it is said that his rapport with the Badals is not as good as of those chosen for the cabinet berths.
Why they made it
Tota Singh (72): Taksali Akali, traditional jathedar of Malwa region, from Moga heartland. One of the few veteran Akali leaders who are close to Parkash Singh Badal.
Daljit Singh Cheema (52): A close confidant of the Badals who runs their office and party affairs meticulously. A qualified MBBS doctor, he joined Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) but started taking interest in SAD affairs in the early 1990s. Elected MLA for the first time from Rupnagar in 2012 assembly polls.
Sohan Singh Thandal (57): A Dalit leader of Doaba, close to the CM. Third-time MLA is also the chief parliamentary secretary.