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Surinder Singla: A forward-looking politician with progressive ideas for Punjab

A reformist at heart, Singla was the brain behind introduction of contractual and outsourcing system for the government jobs as part of his radical agenda to cut the salary bills and raise efficiencies.

punjab Updated: Jun 28, 2018 22:21 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Surinder Singla,Punjab,future of Punjab
Surinder Singla(HT File)

A quintessential politician with progressive ideas for the future of Punjab. That was Surinder Singla who breathed his last after an illness that stuck him after he had an accidental fall in New York five years ago. He was 78 and is survived by his wife, a son and daughter.

A postgraduate in economics, Singla hailed from Samana town in Patiala district and became politically active during the tenure of Darbara Singh as Punjab chief minister in early the 80s. As political secretary, he was also CM’s media handler until the Congress government’s dismissal in 1983.

Former Sangrur Lok Sabha MP Gurcharan Singh Dadhahur remembers his contemporary and friend as “a steadfast person who climbed the political ladder very fast”.

Singla’s first major political break came in 1992 with his nomination to the Rajya Sabha — a tenure that he ably used to widen his sphere in political and corporate domains of New Delhi and beyond. He emerged as one of the leading Hindu faces of the Congress in Punjab.

When Captain Amarinder Singh returned to the Congress fold in 1998 and became the state party chief, Singla earned the erstwhile Patiala scion’s confidence. He contested and won the 2002 assembly polls from Bathinda and was made finance minister in the Amarinder government in 2004.

A reformist at heart, Singla was the brain behind introduction of contractual and outsourcing system for the government jobs as part of his radical agenda to cut the salary bills and raise efficiencies.

“He was a typical politician but was very forward looking and had progressive ideas for Punjab,” says former chief secretary KR Lakhanpal who closely worked with Singla during his stint as the finance minister. “He could think of future,” Lakhanpal says.

After the Congress lost the 2007 assembly elections, Singla’s political career hit a downhill journey. Owing to his outspoken temperament, he fell out with Amarinder and failed to secure ticket in the assembly elections in 2007 and 2012, despite his proximity to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Because of his personal connections with the top corporate houses, Singla always took pride in his role in setting up of Guru Gobind Singh petroleum refinery in the backward areas of Malwa.

As the finance minister, he nurtured Bathinda getting the local civic body upgraded as municipal corporation and a slew of infrastructure projects that changed the face of the city.

“As the finance minister in my previous stint, Singla brought in significant reforms. His development work for his constituency Bathinda was exemplary,” said Amarinder in his tribute on Twitter. Health minister Brahm Mohindra and finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal also condoled Singla’s death.

First Published: Jun 28, 2018 22:20 IST