Punjab minister sacked over graft charges: A dentist, green warrior & social crusader: Singla is ‘Mr Clean’ in hometown Mansa
For the 52-year-old first-time AAP legislator and a dental surgeon Vijay Singla, who created history by winning the Mansa assembly seat by a record margin of 63,323 votes on the plank of ‘political honesty’, the downfall was as unexpected as his rise --- all this, in just two months after his induction in the Bhagwant Mann-led cabinet in Punjab.
Singla, who was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly demanding kickbacks, was sworn in as health minister on March 19.
In the recently held state elections, Singla bagged over one lakh votes which was 58% of the total votes polled from the suburban constituency. Singla had defeated the Congress nominee and popular Punjabi rapper Shubhdeep Singh alias Sidhu Moosewala.
According to his poll affidavit, Singla and his wife jointly have immoveable assets worth ₹5.40 crore and moveable assets worth over ₹one crore. Singla reportedly had no criminal case at the time of contesting polls.
When Bhagwant Mann inducted Singla, a dentist, as the health minister, he was a surprise pick over several two-time legislatures and eight other doctor MLAs with higher qualifications than him.
It was after 27 years that an MLA from Mansa, the educationally most backward district of Punjab, was made a minister. In 1995, Congress MLA late Sher Singh Gagowal was inducted into the Rajinder Kaur Bhattal-led government.
A native of Bhupal village, located about 20 km from the district headquarters, Singla earned the name of being an environmentalist and social activist for almost three decades.
After studying Bachelor of Dental Surgery from Punjabi University in 1992, he became the first qualified dentist with a private practice in Mansa. “He was a popular dentist in the town offering free treatment to the needy,” said President of Mansa chapter of the Indian Medical Association (IMA) Dr Janak Raj.
“Singla is known as an activist for three decades. He was at the forefront of the protests related to issues of a common man. In recognition of his voluntary initiatives, Singla was accorded IMA membership. He was not eligible to become an IMA member due to a graduate-level degree but more than a decade ago, he was made a member for his exceptional social work,” said Raj.
He expressed deep shock over the charges against Singla.
According to MLA’s another friend and old associate Ashok Sapolia, Singla spearheaded tree plantation drives and held career counseling sessions in educational institutes for 27 years.
“He belonged to a middle-class family and was always reluctant to get any position in the clubs he was associated with. Singla joined the AAP in 2016 after his friend circle insisted him to take a political plunge. He was close to several party MLAs and volunteers from the adjoining districts of Bathinda and Sangrur but not CM Mann,” said Sapolia.
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