Punjab’s richest legislator and power minister Rana Gurjit Singh is not happy giving up the red beacon atop his official vehicle.
“We worked very hard for it for many years, and now you say remove it. What about security issues?” he told HT, quick to add with unease that he will give heed to the party’s decision.
There are others like him — ministers and MLAs — who don’t want to come on record, but have expressed resentment about the decision taken in the first cabinet meeting of the Congress government on Saturday. An escort vehicle of Congress MLA from Gidderbaha Amrinder Sing Raja Warring carried a red beacon even after this decision.
Chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh had to issue a press statement on Tuesday, asking all MLAs to give up the frills. While the new government wants its ministers to shed VIP culture, Rana Gurjit Singh doesn’t want to travel in anything but a Toyota Land Cruiser, even if he has to use one of his own private vehicles. “I like to move in big cars, yet I am a kind-hearted man,” he said.
Rana, who owns sugar mills and other businesses, had even earlier told a television channel that he will not remove the red beacon from his official vehicle. He had declared assets worth ₹169 crore at the time of filing his nomination papers for the assembly elections.
New symbol of simplicity
The cabinet decision to remove red beacons is a paradigm shift in Punjab politics. Once a symbol of authority, it has now turned into a ploy to project simplicity. In fact, most parties ahead of the polls had promised to shed VIP culture. Even as the Aam Aadmi Party claims the move is inspired by it, the Congress has denied it.
Amarinder Singh said on Tuesday that his government is committed to demolish VIP culture in the state, as mandated in the poll manifesto. “Such VIP frills are a legacy of the pre-independence era and have no place in a democratic society like ours,” the CM said in the statement, urging all his colleagues in the government and party and other elected representatives entitled to such privileges not to make it an issue of prestige.
Most leaders have welcomed the decision and followed suit. “I have no problem in giving up the red beacon. It’s a cause of heartburn for the common man whom we represent, so better remove it,” said Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, rural development and panchayats minister.
“I have already removed the red beacon. It’s a cabinet decision to which I am a party and cannot refuse it,” said health minister Brahm Mohindra, second in command in the Capt government.
CS, CMO officers follow suit
All officers, of both Indian Administrative Services and Punjab Civil Services, posted in the chief minister’s secretariat have removed the beacons from their vehicles. Deputy principal secretary to CM Amrit Kaur Gill, a PCS officer entitled to a blue beacon, said she removed it immediately after the cabinet decision. “We are the face of the chief minister’s office (CMO), so we must adhere to the CM’s and cabinet’s orders,” she said.
Chief principal secretary to CM Suresh Kumar said all deputy commissioners and other administrative officers will also remove the beacons. IAS officers are entitled to an amber light.
“Police officers could use the beacon as per their entitlement. A policy is being prepared, and once it’s notified, there will be more clarity on the matter,” he said.