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Rahul Gandhi pulls the plug on Rana Gurjit, setback to Capt Amarinder

High command takes moral call on power minister in sand auction row, ED notice to his son; Capt likely to drop him.

punjab Updated: Jan 16, 2018 21:58 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Capt Amarinder,Rana,Rana Gurjit Singh
Rana Gurjit Singh(HT Photo)

Less than a year in power and Captain Amarinder Singh is going to be one minister down. Sugar baron Rana Gurjit Singh, whom Amarinder had bestowed with plum portfolios of power and irrigation, has finally put in his papers after being hounded by controversies. Amarinder’s cabinet has nine ministers, including Rana.

He has yet to fill the remaining eight slots.

It is learnt that the fiat came from Congress president Rahul Gandhi on feedback of state leaders as the corruption charges were “denting the party’s image”.

The dust over involvement of Rana’s aides in the sand mining auctions -- through companies owned by family of his election agent, JS Randhawa and chartered accountant, TN Singla -- had not settled that Rana courted a fresh controversy over summons of Enforcement Directorate (ED) to his son, Rana Inder Partap Singh, for raising funds abroad without mandatory permissions.

Rana had disassociated himself from the business dealings of his aides involved in sand mining auctions but he cannot do so with his son, who is the managing director of family-owned Rana Sugars. Amid reports of being dropped, Rana tendered his resignation.

The development is a setback for CM. Rana was his confidant and personal pick for the cabinet. When the mining scandal erupted in May last year, the CM had set up a one-man inquiry commission under Justice (retd) JS Narang, which gave the minister a “clean chit”.

But Rana’s unenviable rival, leader of opposition Sukhpal Khaira, and his detractors within the Congress, some of whom also have stakes in sand mining, ensured “proofs” kept tumbling out against Rana. All this was also making the CM’s position on Rana untenable. The minister was left with no choice but to step down to put a lid on the controversies.

“When the government gives a clean chit to a minister, how can we stop our MLAs from indulging in sand mining? The party needs to give a clear message on corruption,” a senior party leader said. Some ministers too wanted Rana to go. Amarinder will be meeting Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar and party general secretaries in-charge of Punjab, Asha Kumari and Harish Chaudhary, on Wednesday at New Delhi.

Their meeting with Rahul is scheduled on Thursday. Jakhar said it is the CM’s prerogative to decide on a minister’s resignation and a decision is likely on Wednesday.

The lobby against Rana within the Congress has ensured the news is out to force the CM’s hand. Rana’s exit may also finally see the much-awaited cabinet expansion take place sooner than later to fill the nine slots in the 18-member cabinet after he goes. The CM will also have to ensure he gets clean faces.

First Published: Jan 16, 2018 21:54 IST