Facing high-stake assembly elections early next year, the SAD-BJP government led by Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday doled out largesse to its ‘loyalists’ by adding new seven new chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSes) to its jumbo team.
With fresh inductions ---five from Shiromani Akali Dal and two from Bharatiya Janata Party — Team Badal now has 25 CPSes in comparison to 18 ministers , including the chief minister and the deputy CM.
While Amritsar (south) MLA and Inderbir Singh Bolaria, who had a love lost with the ruling dispensation about a year ago, was stripped off CPS status, the new inductees include Gurtej Singh Ghuriana (Balluana constituency), Manjit Singh Mianwind (Baba Bakala), Darshan Singh Shivalik (Gill), Gurpartap Singh Wadala (Nakodar) and former Indian hockey captain Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt) – all from SAD. Two BJP MLAs appointed as CPSes are Sukhjeet Kaur Sahi (Dasuya) and Seema Kumari (Bhoa).
Governor Punjab Kaptan Singh Solanki on Tuesday announced their induction on the recommendation of the state government. The new appointees will take oath of office on April 28.
The 91st amendment (2004) to the constitution mandates that a state cabinet can’t have ministers more than 15% of the total number of MLAs in the assembly. The state governments, therefore, take a CPS route to “adjust loyalists”.
Though they have negligible powers to interfere in the decision-making process, the post comes with fat perks and other benefits --- red-beaconed government vehicle, drivers, gunmen and much more. In Punjab, a CPS is allotted a department and attached with the minister.
Carefully crafted list
By making Pargat Singh as the CPS, the Akalis have tried to placate him. There were rumours that he is planning to leave the SAD to join the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
In the fresh list, the government has tried to give representation to different districts, including Jalandhar (with two representaives) and one each from Fazilka, Amritsar, Ludhiana, Hoshiarpur and Pathankot.
With polls nearing, the SAD-BJP coalition, doesn’t want to ignore Dalits who comprise the highest population (about 32%) in the state. Among the new CPSes, four are Dalits —Ghuriana, Mianwind, Shivalik and Seema Kumari.
BJP MLA Sahi was included due to her family’s close ties with the Badals.
Wadala is son of Taksali Akali leader Kuldeep Singh Wadala who is contemporary of Parkash Singh Badal. The party feels he is a winning candidate who needs a push.