The first day of the Captain Amarinder Singh government, from the swearing-in ceremony to his visit to the chief minister’s office, was a rich medley of colours.
While the entire Patiala royal clan was sitting on a separate podium, the “aam aadmi” (read AAP MLAs) were fretting over “no chairs” inside the venue for them. The “aam aadmi” outside the venue slogged it out on the streets as the Chandigarh administration thought little about them while making security arrangements for the high-profile event.
The Patiala “peg” could not get bigger than this. From the new CM of Punjab to the second and third in command, it was Patiala all the way in the new cabinet. A big, fat Patiala peg was also in the order. After all, the erstwhile royal has returned as CM for the second term after 10 years of party’s dry run in state elections.
Six-time MLA Brahm Mohindra, the senior-most legislator along with Amarinder, was next in the pecking order during the oath-taking ceremony. Mohindra is MLA from Patiala Rural and Amarinder from Patiala City. He was followed by Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is also from Patiala, though his political innings had started from Amritsar with the BJP.
The myriad hues of the cabinet were visible in its ministers taking oath in different languages. While Amarinder and Rana Gurjit took oath in English, Mohindra and Aruna Chaudhary spoke in Hindi and Sidhu, Manpreet Badal and the rest in Punjabi.
Sidhu, after taking oath in his trademark animated flourish, was first congratulated by his wife, former MLA Navjot Kaur Sidhu. Then, at the spur of moment, he walked up to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, touched his knees and shook hands with party vice-president Rahul Gandhi. Most of the subsequent oath takers followed the drill of thanksgiving gesture to Manmohan and Rahul.
The entire Patiala clan, including Captain’s wife Preneet Kaur, brother Malwinder Singh, son Raninder Singh, daughter Jai Inder Kaur, grandchildren, both sisters and his brother-in-law, former Union minister Natwar Singh, were on the podium next to where governor VP Singh Badnore was administering the oath. The Congress leadership was seated in the front row and Punjab and Haryana high court judges and Amarinder’s Pakistani friend Aroosa Alam, in the parallel row.
If Amarinder wanted to keep the guest list minimum, the ceremony became a show of political clout of party MLAs and leaders who brought in their relatives and friends in droves.
While Amarinder was closeted with the governor, Rahul and former PM after the ceremony, Sidhu was the man of the moment. He was thronged by party supporters and the media on the lawns where refreshments were being served and the cricketer-turned-politician did not disappoint them.
As for the media, it again faced the “power pangs” of the new government. As informed, they duly reached the chief minister’s office on the second floor of the Punjab secretariat where Amarinder came at 3pm to take charge. But they came back after much pushing and shoving and “no bite” from the new CM.
Inside the CM’s chambers, Amarinder took charge after chanting of sacred hymns from the Bhagavad Gita, Guru Granth Sahib, Quran and Bible with some newly-inducted ministers and old loyalists who did not make it. His “coterie” too was back in the frame!
FIRST CABINET MEETING TOMORROW
The first cabinet meeting is scheduled for Saturday. The government is likely to take several important decisions, including its poll promises. Amarinder, in a press statement, reiterated his promise to constitute a special task force (STF) to wipe out drugs menace from the state within four weeks, as promised in the Congress poll manifesto. He said farm loan waiver, industrial revival and employment were some of the other programmes high on his government’s agenda, which he would take up on priority.