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Appointments to PPSC, info panel fuel resentment within Congress too

Senior leader and Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa had on Saturday fired the first salvo when he questioned the picks of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

punjab Updated: Jan 23, 2018 09:56 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
PPSC,info panel,resentment
Sunil Jakhar(HT File )

After Punjab leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira red-flagged the appointments to the State Information Commission and the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) last week, resentment is brewing within the ruling Congress too.

Senior leader and Rajya Sabha member Partap Singh Bajwa had on Saturday fired the first salvo when he questioned the picks of chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. Though Amarinder has chosen to duck Bajwa’s bouncers, top Congress leaders agree Bajwa had voiced the anger of many in the party.

Former Gurdaspur MP and ex-state Congress chief, Bajwa had asked the CM to “overhaul governance, shed his many OSDs and advisers, give up all the 34 departments under him and appoint Congressmen and not personal friends and loyalists” to constitutional posts. But a few are willing to rally behind Bajwa, a known Amarinder baiter. Others too do not want to invite the CM’s displeasure.

  • The setting aside of appointment of retired IAS officer Suresh Kumar as chief principal secretary to the CM too has raised concerns within the party and government over “non-state” actors taking centre stage in the CM’s office.
  • Kumar was also dealing with MLAs and had ruffled the feathers of some Congress leaders and CM’s political appointees by not conceding to their demands.
  • But he commanded the authority and the seniority to do so. If roped in as an adviser, he may not be able to offer the CM the luxury of “running his show”.

“All the appointments done so far, be it of legal officers, OSDs or PPSC members and information commissioners, have hit the morale of party leaders and workers. They have all been bagged by loyalists of the CM, the Patiala palace or the coteries. The ministers cannot question the CM, nor can wannabes awaiting the cabinet expansion. There is reportedly a list of MLAs who are involved in sand mining. Some other MLAs are first-timers who cannot voice their resentment. The scenario explains why no voices of dissent are being heard openly,” a senior Congress leader said.

For the six vacant posts of members of the PPSC, those shortlisted include retired IPS officer Lok Nath Angra, serving IAS officer APS Virk and a techie, Sukhpreet Ghuman. Angra retired as inspector general of police last year. For the two vacant posts in the information commission, Khushwant Singh, a former journalist who had written CM’s authorised biography “The People’s Maharaja” last year and Sanjeev Garg, a confidant of CM’s wife Preneet Kaur, have been shortlisted.

“The appointments are the prerogative of the CM and if Congress leaders have some concerns, they can raise it with him (Amarinder) and he will address them.”Sunil Jakhar, Punjab Congress chief

No conflict of interest

Though the Congress government has yet to bring the “Conflict of Interest” law promised in its election manifesto to debar ministers from having stakes in state-run businesses, it will be the unsaid rule when Captain expands his cabinet. As fallout of Rana Gurjit Singh’s exit from the cabinet, the expansion is likely to have greater imprint of party president Rahul Gandhi as the government cannot afford to court more controversies. The portfolios of some ministers are also likely to be rejigged.

The delay in cabinet expansion has so far kept a lid over the simmering discontent. The CM is learnt to be keen on taking in some of his loyalists but among the contenders are also Young Turks who owe their allegiance to Rahul. Some of them had not stood by Captain in his war against Bajwa for the state presidency.

First Published: Jan 23, 2018 09:56 IST