Within week of Punjab govt formation, rumblings audible in Capt cabinet, party over posts
It’s barely a week since the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress assumed power in Punjab, but the first rumblings are already audible in the corridors of power. Reason: While wings of some leaders have been clipped, others are “flying high”.punjab Updated: Mar 24, 2017 09:01 IST
It’s barely a week since the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress assumed power in Punjab, but the first rumblings are already audible in the corridors of power. Reason: While wings of some leaders have been clipped, others are “flying high”.
On March 16, when Amarinder took oath as CM along with nine ministers, former leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi was sworn in seventh in the pecking order as a cabinet minister. Even the portfolio allotted to the three-time MLA is technical education and industrial training.
In contrast, Aruna Chaudhary, a minister of state with independent charge, has been given the meatier department of school and higher education. Another minister of state with independent charge, Razia Sultana, has been allotted PWD (B&R) along with women and child development. Razia’s husband, Mohammad Mustafa, a DGP-rank officer in Punjab, is known to call the shots in her constituency and had lobbied for either being appointed as state DGP or a plum department for Razia.
Aruna’s husband, Ashok Chaudhary, is a retired bureaucrat and Congress leader. The Chaudharys courted a controversy on Wednesday after the husband was seen perusing department files sitting next to his wife. Some Congress leaders are already asking why both Razia and Aruna were given minister of state ranks with the high-profile departments and why Channi was given a cabinet rank and a “light-weight” department.
“In the previous government, the industry minister also had department of technical education was with the department of industry. It is for the first time that a cabinet minister has been just given technical education and industrial training department that too when there are just seven ministers with cabinet rank,” sources in the government said. Channi, when contacted, said it was the CM’s prerogative to divide departments and he has no complaints.
Navjot Singh Sidhu wanted the department of urban development along with local government. “I have requested the CM that the two departments are under one minister at the centre and compliment each other. It should be the same in Punjab,” Sidhu told HT. The urban development department is presently with the CM.
Amarinder as CM has kept the department of vigilance with himself. He is facing two high-profile cases being investigated by the vigilance department — the Amritsar Improvement Trust case and the Ludhiana City Centre scam — that came to haunt Captain’s government during his first tenure as CM (2002-07).
SCRAMBLE FOR RANKS IN CORE TEAM
Even the allotment of posts among Amarinder’s aides and core team could take place after a bitter tug-of-war over positions that come with pay and perks of a cabinet minister or minister of state, the appointment of Raveen Thukral as media adviser was made only after his former media adviser Bharat Inder Singh Chahal was rehabilitated as adviser to the CM. Both will hold minister of state ranks.
Between his three other aides — Captain Sandeep Sandhu, Major Amardeep and Karanpal Sekhon — it was decided to appoint Sandhu as political secretary and the other two as protocol secretaries, which did not go down well with them. Amarinder had to finally appoint all three as political secretaries.
Amarinder’s old friend, Lt Gen Tajinder Singh Shergill (retd), who also co-authored a book, ‘The Monsoon War’, with him has been appointed as senior adviser to CM with a cabinet rank. After MP Singh, another five were on Wednesday appointed as OSDs to Amarinder. And those raising questions over the spree of political appointments in the CM’s office are also those from his own party. “All the government’s first moves have been about symbolism, from low-key swearing-in ceremony to removing red beacons from cars of VIPs. The coterie was kept out of frame during elections but it is back with a bang in the CMO. The first casualty will once again be the CM’s accessibility, which proved to be his bane in his last term,” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.