Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader Balwant Singh Ramoowalia joined the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday and was inducted as a cabinet minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government.
“Yes, I have left the Akali Dal. I have been sworn in as a cabinet minister in the Akhilesh Yadav government,” Ramoowalia, a former Union minister, told Hindustan Times over phone soon after the oath-taking ceremony in Lucknow.
UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav revamped his council of ministers by inducting 11 new ministers and elevating 9 ministers of state, including those with independent charge, to give it a younger look with a new caste and regional equilibrium.
“My decision to join the Akhilesh government is based on my long association with the Samajwadi Party since it had backed me when I was a Rajya Sabha member in 1996. I got a call from SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav to join the Akhilesh government two days ago. I could not decline his offer as I am indebted to him,” he said.
Ramoowalia, who was a core committee member of the SAD, said, “I sent my resignation letter to Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal after deciding to join the SP. In any case, the role assigned to me in the SAD was very normal.”
The SAD was apparently clueless about Ramoowalia’s decision to join the SP. Akali MPs Prem Singh Chandumajra and Balwinder Singh Bhunder expressed shock over the development and said they learnt about Ramoowalia’s move in the morning.
The SAD leadership retaliated by expelling Ramoowalia from the primary membership of the party, hours after he joined the cabinet of Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh.
“Ramoowalia has displayed the height of political opportunism and power hunger by betraying the party which had given him everything to hitch his boat with the Samajwadi Party (SP),” a statement issued by SAD said.
They also removed Ramoowalia’s daughter, Amanjot Kaur, from the post of chairperson of the SAS Nagar Planning Board.
Ramoowalia, who unsuccessfully contested the 2012 Punjab assembly elections from SAS Nagar on a SAD ticket, had represented the party in Parliament twice from Faridkot and Sangrur.
He left it to get elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1996 when he was backed by the SP. He had served as the Union minister for social welfare in the HD Deve Gowda Government.
He went on to form the Lok Bhalai Party that was merged with the Akali Dal in November 2011.
Ramoowalia started his political career as a general secretary of the Students Federation of India in 1963. Later, he joined the All India Sikh Students’ Federation and was its president from 1968-72.