CS-MINISTERS’ SPAT: Punjab CM takes luncheon diplomacy route; Randhawa, MLAs reiterate demands
These leaders, who were invited for an ‘informal lunch’, had last week vociferously demanded the removal of Karan Avtar Singh from the chief secretary’s postUpdated: May 20, 2020 23:24 IST
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Wednesday took the luncheon diplomacy route to try and break the deadlock over the spat between chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh and his ministers.
The CM met Punjab Congress president Sunil Jakhar, cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and MLAs Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, Pargat Singh and Sangat Singh Gilzian at his farmhouse in Siswan village near here. These leaders, who were invited for an ‘informal lunch’, had last week vociferously demanded the removal of Karan Avtar Singh from the chief secretary’s post and probe into the excise revenue losses.
‘LUNCH HOSTED TO BREAK THE ICE’
Jakhar said the CM called the meeting to break the ice and it was held in a cordial atmosphere. “The issue related to CS, which is agitating the minds of ministers and MLAs, was also discussed. The CM heard them out and shared his own views. The idea was to strengthen the party and see that the state comes out of this crisis in a better shape,” he said.
Randhawa, Warring and Gilzian, who have been upset over delay in action against the 1984-batch IAS officer, raised the issues of his removal and excise revenue losses without mincing any words. “The chief minister was told that the chief secretary’s demeanour and attitude towards the ministers during the pre-cabinet meeting was improper. If he (Karan Avtar) continues to be there with this kind of attitude, how will things work?” one of them said after the meeting, adding, “The CM was told that wrong perception is getting created about the government”.
Pargat, who had also hit out against the government on Sunday for failing to set up an excise corporation, stressed the need to check liquor smuggling and dip in excise revenue at the meeting. “I suggested that the state should try it (excise corporation) to raise its revenue and stop smuggling as this model is working well in at least two states,” he said. Both Randhawa and Pargat later said that the CM told them he would look into all these issues.
CM GAVE A PATIENT HEARING
At the meeting, Amarinder, who gave the minister and MLAs a patient hearing, also told them about all the steps taken by the state government to stop the illegal smuggling, leakages and revenue loss, besides instructions issued to the director general of police (DGP) to hold senior superintendents of police (SSPs) and station house officers (SHOs) accountable for any laxity, according to sources. They said the CM also asked Randhawa about the CS’ apology to the ministers at the pre-cabinet meeting but was told that the officer went to finance minister Manpreet Badal and expressed regret to him when the minister was sitting in his car and ready to leave.
Randhawa, Jakhar and several other ministers and MLAs have been seeking action against Karan Avtar following his run-in with finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal and technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi over the state excise policy more than 10 days ago. While Pargat, Warring and Gilzian went to the CM’s farmhouse with Randhawa, Jakhar came separately.
Meanwhile, an official spokesperson, while confirming that the party leaders raised the issue of the chief secretary and the alleged excise revenue losses, said they discussed the dynamically evolving Covid situation and the prolonged lockdown in the state. “In view of the social distancing norms and stringent Covid-related safety protocols in place, Amarinder had invited only a handful of party leaders and members”.
The spokesperson, in a written statement, further said they shared with the CM their suggestions on the Covid pandemic and the problems faced by the state due to the resultant lockdown, besides congratulating him on the various steps taken to keep the spread of the pandemic under check.