Nine new ministers sworn in, Capt Amarinder men get plum depts
Nine new ministers were sworn in at the Raj Bhawan here on Saturday taking the Punjab cabinet strength to 18, the maximum permitted for the house of 117 lawmakers as per the Constitution. Two ministers of state Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana also took oath as cabinet ministers.
At a low-key ceremony presided over by Punjab chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh, Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore administered oath to 11 ministers according to seniority.
Late in the evening, chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh tweeted portfolios of the new inductees.
The portfolio allocation can trigger fresh dissent in the party with CM loyalists bagging plum departments. CM’s pick five-time MLA OP Soni has been allocated school education, a charge earlier held by Aruna Chaudhary.
CM’s confidant Rana Gurmeet Sodhi has bagged sports and youth affairs. It was being sought by local government minister Navjot Singh Sidhu for Pargat Singh, Jalandhar Cantt MLA, who joined the Congress with him in the run-up to the assembly polls.
CM loyalist Gurpreet Kangar has got power and renewable energy portfolio and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria revenue, mines and geology along with water resources.
Sukhjinder Randhawa, who was keen for the agriculture portfolio, has been allotted relatively “light weight” departments of cooperation and jails. Randhawa enjoys proximity to Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar.
In comparison, two-time MLAs Sundar Sham Arora and Bharat Bhushan Ashu, have both bagged “heavy weight” departments. Arora has been given industries and commerce and Ashu food and civil supplies. Former MP and first-time MLA Vijay Inder Singla has got public works department.
Three-time legislator Balbir Sidhu has been allocated animal husbandry and labour, which his close aide said has left him resentful.
Portfolios of both women ministers have been changed. Razia has been allotted higher education and water supply and sanitation relieving her of the charge of public works department. Aruna has transport and women and child welfare in addition to social security.
The CM has also rewarded rural department minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa, his trusted lieutenant, with additional charge of housing and urban development, a department Navjot Sidhu had expressed his willingness to have.
The reshuffle has also dashed hopes of ministers like Charanjit Singh Channi who was hoping to get meatier portfolios. He remains in-charge of technical education and employment generation.
The CM has cut down the number of departments under him from 42 to 19, keeping home, personnel, excise and taxation, general administration, agriculture and vigilance.
All the king’s men
As is customary, all ministers shook hands with the governor after taking oath. They then took blessings of the CM.
Even those not his “picks” were more than happy to be seen as the king’s men till the portfolios were allotted. All 11 ministers took oath in Punjabi. The nine new ministers were dressed in white kurta-pyjamas.