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New Punjab ministers forget old enmities for plush bungalows, offices

Punjab’s new jails and cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa took charge accompanied by Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh. But he had already performed ‘paath’ (recitation of religious hymns) at his office on the third floor of the civil secretariat on Sunday

punjab Updated: Apr 25, 2018 10:55 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Punjab ministers,evil eye,ward off evil eye
CM Capt Amarinder Singh and other legislators with OP Soni, MLA from Amritsar Central, as he took charge as minister and (right) Amarinder greets Bharat Bhushan Ashu, MLA from Ludhiana West.

When it comes to plush homes and offices, old enmities don’t count. All you need to do is ward off the evil eye! Punjab’s new jails and cooperation minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa took charge on Tuesday accompanied by chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. But he had already performed ‘paath’ (recitation of religious hymns) at his office on the third floor of the civil secretariat on Sunday.

Not very long ago, this office belonged to Rana Gurjit Singh, a former power and irrigation minister, who had to quit for alleged involvement in a scam in sand mining auctions. There is no love lost between the two. Randhawa says he chose the office as it is convenient for visitors. But he remains wary of Rana’s controversies. About portfolios, he said, “Both power and irrigation are not easy to handle. I am happy having cooperation and jails department. I can do a lot for farmers and improve the condition of the jails,” he said.

There is also a twist in the tale of old Majha rivals. The new revenue minister, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, is amused at the media reports over the personal assistant of his predecessor in the SAD-BJP regime, Bikram Singh Majithia, having been allotted to him. But he was not keen on occupying the office of Majithia on the seventh floor, which is currently with rural and urban development minister Tript Rajinder Bajwa. All three are from the Majha region. The old bond between the two leaders saw Bajwa give up the office on the fifth floor to Sarkaria.

Bajwa says he wanted to move out of the seventh floor office owing to mobile connectivity issues. “It is difficult for an old man like me to be on the seventh floor, that too without mobile signal. But I gave up my office as Sarkaria is like my younger brother,” he said.

The three other ministers allotted office on the seventh floor are relatively younger — food and civil supply minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, animal husbandry minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and power minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar.

Balbir Singh Sidhu, MLA from Mohali, at a religious ceremony, in their respective offices after taking charge as ministers in the Congress government of Punjab, at the state secretariat in Chandigarh on Tuesday.

Sarkaria’s fifth-floor office was earlier with SAD leader and former rural development minister Sikander Singh Maluka. And one minister who would not occupy it is Kangar.

The bitter rivalry between Maluka and Kangar dates back to many elections over Rampura Phul seat. In fact, Kangar’s entry to the cabinet, a senior party leader said, was a “reward for standing up to might of Badals and Maluka in Bathinda”.

But it is the story of a “revolving” bungalow between two Badal families that’s seen as the most interesting.

Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, MLA from Guru Har Sahai.

Majithia’s former official residence located in the upscale and high-security Sector 2 of Chandigarh, adjacent to the CM’s residence, is now with finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal. Majithia is the brother-in-law of SAD president and former deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal, Manpreet’s estranged cousin.

According to Manpreet, the house was with him when he was finance minister in the SAD-BJP government, and Majithia took it after he left the SAD. Majithia’s new address in the capital is the MLA hostel.

Speaking of ministers and houses, technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi has been able to keep the palatial house he was allotted as leader of opposition (right next to that of the CM) in Sector 2. On “astrological” advice, Channi even got the swimming pool in the house, made by his predecessor Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, closed. But it has not got him plum portfolios.

As for Bhattal, she lost both the house and the election, but won a waiver of Rs 84 lakh penal rent from the Captain government for overstaying in the official bungalow from the ministers’ pool.

Also read | Need at least Class 10 to be minister in Punjab Congress regime

First Published: Apr 25, 2018 09:39 IST