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Punjab Cabinet Expansion: 6 New Faces in CM Channi's Team; 'Tainted' Ex-Min Gets Berth

By: News Desk

News18.com

Last Updated: September 26, 2021, 17:46 IST

New Delhi

The expansion saw inclusion of "tainted" former minister Rana Gurjit Singh, an alleged sand mining mafia. (ANI)

The expansion saw inclusion of "tainted" former minister Rana Gurjit Singh, an alleged sand mining mafia. (ANI)

The new Punjab cabinet has 15 ministers in all, who were administered the oath of office by Governor Banwarilal Purohit at Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh.

Ahead of the Punjab assembly elections in 2022, the state cabinet was expanded on Sunday, with the inclusion of six new faces. In all, the new cabinet has 15 ministers: Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Sukhbindr Singh Sarkaria, Rana Gurjeet Singh, Aruna Chaudary, Razia Sultana, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Vijay Inder Singla, Randeep Singh Nabha, Raj Kumar Verka, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Pargat Singh, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Gukrirat Singh Kotli. Of these, Nabha, Verka, Gilzian, Pargat Singh, Warring, and Kotli are new additions to the cabinet.

The MLAs were administered the oath of office as cabinet ministers by Governor Banwarilal Purohit at Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh at around 4.30pm. A total of 18 MLAs, including chief minister, can be included in the cabinet. Channi had taken oath as the chief minister following the unceremonious exit of Congress veteran Amarinder Singh. Channi’s two deputies Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni were sworn in on Monday.

Amloh legislator Randeep Singh Nabha, who was learnt to be upset over being ignored for the ministerial post in the new cabinet, was given a cabinet berth in place of Kuljit Nagra, who was earlier among the probables. Brahm Mohindra is the senior-most Congress leader of the state Congress unit, who has been associated with the party even before former CM Captain Amarinder Singh.

ALSO READ: Ahead of Punjab Cabinet Rejig, Tension Simmers as Cong MLAs Slam Likely Inclusion of ‘Sand Mafia’

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The expansion also saw inclusion of controversial former minister Rana Gurjit Singh, an alleged sand mining mafia. The richest candidate in the 2017 assembly elections, Gurjit Singh was inducted in the Captain Amarinder Singh-led government in 2017 as irrigation and power minister. Barely nine months in, he had to resign after being accused of pocketing sand mining contracts worth Rs 26.51 crore in Nawanshahr.

Hours before the expansion, a section of Congress leaders from Punjab had written to the party’s state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, demanding that Gurjit Singh be dropped. The leaders also demanded that the cabinet berth may instead be filled up “by giving representation to a clean Dalit leader". The copy of the letter was also sent to Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi. In the letter to Sidhu, the Congress leaders demanded to drop Rana Gurjit Singh from the proposed cabinet berth, alleging that “he is a known corrupt and tainted politician of Doaba".

Resentment over rejig

The cabinet expansion was a source of major discontent among several Congress MLAs, and hours before the rejig, a group of ministers in the previous Amarinder Singh government questioned the apparent decision to drop them.

In another development, ministers in the previous Amarinder cabinet Balbir Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Singh Kangar, held a joint news conference here shortly before the expansion, and asked what was their fault that they had been dropped. Balbir Sidhu even broke down asking what his fault was, while Kangar, too posed the same question.

ALSO READ: X-Factor Not Ex-Factor: Scare for Sidhu as Charanjit Channi May Well be Here to Stay Come 2022

Balbir Sidhu held health portfolio and Revenue department was with Kangar. Both detailed several initiatives taken for the welfare of people and said they had worked hard and left no stone unturned. “I want to ask party high command what is my fault and why I was excluded," asked Balbir Sidhu, as he broke down and his voice was choked with emotion. “I am a soldier of Sonia Gandhi," he said.

“They should have asked for my resignation and I would have given it happily… People of my area are disappointed. I am not upset with losing my ministry, I have no greed for power. But I want ask what was the need to humiliate us?" he said. He recalled he had made himself available round-the-clock when Covid pandemic was at its peak.

(With PTI inputs)

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first published:September 26, 2021, 16:42 IST
last updated:September 26, 2021, 17:46 IST