Cabinet reshuffle: Akalis miss the bus again as Modi inducts another turbaned Sikh
Sources said the BJP had initially shown the inclination to induct one more SAD MP in the cabinet and feelers were sent to the Akali Dal leadership in this regard, but the latter did not follow up the matter effectively.Updated: Sep 03, 2017 23:11 IST
With the induction of former diplomat Hardeep Singh Puri in the Union council of ministers on Sunday, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre now has two turbaned Sikhs.
However, the two ministers of state are not from the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), an ally of the saffron party.
While Puri bagged a key portfolio of housing and urban development, minister of state for agriculture SS Ahluwalia has now been given drinking water and sanitation.
The SAD has only one representative in the Union council of ministers, Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who too holds the not-so-important portfolio of food processing.
However, sources said the Akali Dal itself is responsible for its failure to get one more of its MPs included in the Union cabinet.
They said the BJP had initially shown the inclination to induct one more SAD MP in the cabinet and feelers were sent to the Akali Dal leadership in this regard, but the latter did not follow up the matter effectively.
Chandumajra cpuld have been inducted: Dhindsa
“(Prem Singh) Chandumajra could have been the choice, but I don’t know what happened. No idea what transpired between SAD and BJP leaders,” Rajya Sabha MP Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, who is recuperating after heart bypass surgery, said while talking to HT.
“My party could have taken it up with the BJP. I don’t think there’s a ratio formula. Though we are a minor ally as far as our strength in the Parliament is concerned, our ties with the BJP are the oldest and strong,” he said.
Chandumajra, who is MP from Anandpur Sahib, was in the race for the ministerial berth and sources in the BJP revealed that the saffron party was keen to take him in. There are a total of seven MPs of SAD in the two houses of Parliament, out of which five are turbaned Sikhs (see box).
Barring Dhindsa and Ranjit Singh Brahmpura, both of whom are 79-year-old, all other party MPs fit into the under-75 criterion of Modi to become a minister in the Union cabinet, source said.
Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhunder said his party had not made any attempts to seek a second ministerial berth in the NDA government.
With age on his side, Chandumajra, 67, could have been the possible choice as turbaned Sikh leader from SAD, because Ferozepur MP Sher Singh Ghubaya, 55, had fallen from the favour of the party high command, including SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, after he secured the Congress ticket for his son Davinder Singh Ghubaya from Fazilka constituency in the assembly polls in February this year.
“What can I say now. If they had called me I could have taken oath,” said Chandumajra.
“We can’t ask for a berth in the Union cabinet on our own. Had they felt appropriate they would have asked us to send a name,” said Bhunder, 72, who does not have big political aspirations.
“We want the country to grow and harmony to prevail. It doesn’t matter how many ministers we have from our party,” he added, while trying to wriggle out of the issue with a philosophical note.
Lok Sabha: Four (Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, Prem Singh Chandumajra, Ranjit Singh Brahmpura and Sher Singh Ghubaya)
Rajya Sabha: Three (Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa and Naresh Gujral)