Apparently making out a case for himself and speaking out of turn, Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) member of Parliament (MP) Prem Singh Chandumajra is seeking greater representation for Punjab in the union cabinet.
However, he agrees that it is the prerogative of SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal or Punjab chief minister Parkash Singh Badal to name a party MP for a union cabinet berth.
The SAD has four MPs in the Lok Sabha — Chandumajra (Anandpur Sahib), Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Bathinda), Ranjit Singh Brahmpura (Khadoor Sahib) and Sher Singh Ghubaya (Ferozepur). Currently, the only union cabinet minister from Punjab is Harsimrat, who holds the portfolio of food processing. Shortly before the NDA government’s swearing-in, speculation was rife that Brahmpura might get the cabinet berth, but it was Harsimrat who got the nod.
The SAD’s alliance partner, the BJP, has two Lok Sabha MPs from the state: Vinod Khanna (Gurdaspur) and Vijay Sampla (Hoshiarpur).
Justifying his demand, Chandumajra told HT, “Punjab deserves greater representation in the union cabinet as the SAD is a key ally of the BJP, which is heading the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. Also, Punjab is a border state. It has made sacrifices and worked hard for the country’s progress.”
He added, “There are leaders senior to me (hinting at Brahmpura). I want that one more MP should be inducted from Punjab.” Reportedly, Chandumajra is in touch with top BJP leaders.
Notably, Chandumajra ended a losing streak when he won the Anandpur Sahib seat in the recent Lok Sabha polls. He had defeated Congress veteran Ambika Soni by a margin of more than 23,000 votes.
Earlier, after being elected MP in 1996 as well as 1998, he had lost in the 2007 and 2012 assembly elections, besides the 2009 parliamentary polls.
A veteran Akali leader, Chandumajra was a close aide of Akali stalwart Gurcharan Singh Tohra, who died in 2004. When Tohra and Badal parted ways in 1999, he was a key leader of the Sarab Hind Shiromani Akali Dal, formed by Tohra. He came back to the Badals’ SAD in 2003, but was dismissed from the party after the 2004 parliamentary polls on the insistence of Akali leader Capt Kanwaljit Singh. He rejoined the SAD before the 2007 assembly polls. Since then, he has held several important positions in the party.