Punjab Cabinet: 15 ministers take oath amid row over Rana Gurjit Singh
A total of 15 ministers to be part of the new Cabinet of Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi took oath on Sunday at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh, a week after Channi's name was announced as the new chief minister of the poll-bound state. After Channi's swearing-in on Monday, rounds of discussion were held to finalise the names of the new ministers. Sunday's Cabinet expansion and swearing-in follow the chief minister's recent visit to New Delhi where the new inclusions have been vetted by the high command.
However, at the last moment, a controversy erupted with six MLAs objecting to Rana Gurjit Singh's inclusion in the Cabinet. Rana Gurjeet Singh was dropped from the Cabinet in January 2018 because of his alleged involvement in the mining scandal. The leaders demanded that the cabinet berth should go to a clean Dalit leader.
The ministers who took oath on Sunday are Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Tripti Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Rana Gurjit Singh, Aruna Chaudary, Razia Sultana, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Vijay Inder Singla, Randeep Singh Nabha, Raj Kumar Verka, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Pargat Singh, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Gukrirat Singh Kotli.
Congress leader in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat said the Cabinet, which has seven new faces and eight from Amarinder Singh's Cabinet is a balanced one. Among the new faces inducted, only Rana Gurjit Singh has been a minister before. The rest six are ministers from the first time.
“Those who could not be made ministers today will be accommodated in government setup and organisation. This exercise has been done to bring in young faces and strike a social and regional balance,” Rawat said.
The Cabinet expansion has drawn the ire of the ministers of the Amarinder Singh government, who have been dropped from the Channi government. Balbir Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Singh Kangar held a joint news conference here shortly before the cabinet expansion and asked what was their fault that they had been dropped. Congress leader Manish Tewari waded into the controversy and said it is the chief minister's prerogative to decide who should be a minister. But he said that former health minister Balbir Singh worked exemplarily during the worst days of Covid.
The new Cabinet has been designed keeping an eye on the upcoming election that the Congress is likely to contest under the leadership of Punjab Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, instead of Channi, who is Punjab's first Dalit chief minister. Caste calculation has played a significant role in the new Cabinet as there is a representation of Valmiki, OBC, Jat Sikhs.