In what is being seen as yet another challenge thrown by his detractors within the party, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has come under attack from his cabinet colleagues and legislators for his decision to appoint family members of some party MLAs to government jobs.
The cabinet had approved the appointment of Arjun Partap Singh Bajwa, son of Qadian MLA Fateh Jung Singh Bajwa, as Inspector in Punjab Police, and Bhisham Pandey, son of Ludhiana MLA Rakesh Pandey, as Naib Tehsildar. The government claimed that the decision was taken in ‘recognition of the sacrifices made by their grandfathers, who laid down their lives for the country’.
Ministers opposing the decision have demanded that the FIR proving Fateh Bajwa’s father Satnam Singh Bajwa was killed in terrorist attack in 1987 be tabled before the Cabinet as they say that he does not merit being given the job on compassionate grounds. Rakesh Pandey’s father Joginderpal Pandey was also killed in terrorist attack in 1987.
The cabinet colleagues Sukhjinder Randhawa, Sukhbinder Sarkaria, Charanjit Channi, Tript Rajinder Bajwa and Razia Sultana expressed their objection to the decision of the Chief Minister during the cabinet meeting held on Friday. More voices of protest against the order emerged on Saturday when the Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib, Kuljit Nagra, opposed the appointments and sought rollback of the decision.
Already under pressure from the dissident camp, the latest attack has put the government in a tight spot. The Chief Minister while interacting informally with media persons outside the residence of late Milkha Singh, remarked that those who make a sacrifice for the nation can, and should, never be forgotten.
Without making any reference to the attack from within, Capt Amarinder chose to target the opposition parties, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for criticising the move, “If these parties provide names of any youth whose father/grandfathers have made similar sacrifices for the nation, they will also be provided jobs in the state government,” he said.
Asserting that he would give jobs to anyone coming from a family that had made similar sacrifices, the Chief Minister pointed out that Punjab had been through tough times in the dark days of terrorism when 35,000 innocent lives had been lost to senseless violence. As many as 1,700 police personnel had also died, he recalled, adding that it was not sufficient to pay tributes to these people at their memorials, and the state needed to do something more to compensate their families.
“We cannot allow their sacrifices to go waste,” said the Chief Minister, adding that Punjab salutes those who have shed blood for the country, and his government will continue to recognise their contribution to the state’s peace and harmony.
The cacophony is also because the two candidates are sons of rich and famous fathers who have given them luxurious lives. Fateh Jung Bajwa was two time MLA from Shri Hargobindpur in 2007 from Qadian in 2017 while his wife was MLA from here in 2012. His son, Arjun Bajwa has studied at Lawrence School, Sanawar, and has been a model and an aspiring actor. He worked as Prabhu Deva’s assistant in film ‘Singh is Bling’ after his modelling stint. Arjun is going to debut in the film “Band of Maharaja”, directed by Oscar-nominated Girish Malik. The film was to release last year according to media reports but the date got extended. Further, like many of his ilk, he is very fond of luxury cars as well.
Fateh Bajwa has said the job was given to his son as per rules and after Cabinet nod and others have also got jobs on similar grounds. Fateh Bajwa is brother of Amarinder Singh’s arch rival Partap Singh Bajwa.
On the other hand, Rakesh Pandey has been MLA six times, and his son is a graduate who is engaged in social work with his father. In 2017 polls, Pandey’s wealth accounted for 3.26 crore from Rs 1.4 crore in 2012.
(With inputs from Anuradha Shukla)