Return to power after 10 years of political exile has its own exigencies, no matter how urgent the need for austerity. So Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh made a slew of appointments to adjust his key aides as advisers and political secretaries.
The younger lot have been appointed as officers on special duty (OSD) with charge of different districts. Among the five young OSDs appointed so far, the youngest is a 24-year-old law student, Ankit Bansal. The other four are Gurpreet Singh alias Sonu Dhesi, Jagdeep Singh Sidhu, Sandeep Singh Brar and Damanjeet Singh Mohi.
However, all these OSDs were doing for now was hangout at the CM’s camp office at his private residence in Sector 10 of Chandigarh -- he has yet to move to his official residence -- and be seen around him.
According to sources in the government, in a stern diktat from the CM, the OSDs have been given a list of dos and don’ts. The first is “not to enter the CM residence, until asked”. Second, “not to accompany the CM, until asked”. And the third, “not to seek appointments” with the CM for people. They have been asked to meet people of districts they have been entrusted with and get their problems and applications to the notice of the CM and his officers.
Behind the appointment of OSDs is also a power struggle within “rival” camps in the CM’s core team of advisers and secretaries.
“The OSDs owe their allegiance to one or the other camp close to Amarinder. Each camp tries to control access of CM to people they perceive to be from the rival camp, be it MLAs, officers or the media. Right now, hectic lobbying is on within the camps for cabinet berths and posts of chief parliamentary secretaries for MLAs close to them. Many party leaders are also lobbying for their business interests. It will soon be business as usual in the Congress,” a senior MLA said requesting anonymity.
The letters have gone to the young team of OSDs barring two of Amarinder’s trusted aides --MP Singh, who is CM’s OSDcum-secretary and Sandeep Sandhu, an Amritsar-based businessman who has been made in-charge of camp office at Amritsar.