Senior Dalit leader from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Harpal Singh Cheema will be the new finance minister of Punjab as chief minister Bhagwant Mann allocated portfolios to his cabinet colleagues on Monday.
While Cheema will also oversee the revenue department, Gurmeet Meet Hayer, a mechanical engineer by profession, has been given the education portfolio.
CM Mann has retained home, vigilance, and personnel.
Dr Baljit Kaur gets women welfare and child development, Dr Vijay Singla will run the health department, and Harjot S Bains will be the law and tourism minister.
Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal gets rural development and panchayati raj, and Laljit Singh Bhullar will be in charge of transport, one of the most challenging portfolios. Bram Shankar Jimpa gets water and disaster management.
There are a total of 18 berths in the cabinet, including that of Mann. With vacancies still available, reports suggest an expansion may not be far away.
On Saturday, 10 AAP MLAs, including a woman, were inducted into the Bhagwant Mann-led cabinet in Punjab. Governor Banwarilal Purohit administered the oath of office and secrecy to the 10 ministers at a ceremony at the Guru Nanak Dev auditorium in Punjab Raj Bhawan. All of them took the oath in Punjabi.
Barring Harpal Singh Cheema and Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, eight others are first-time MLAs. Cheema, a legislator from Dirba, was the first to take oath followed by Dr Baljit Kaur, the lone woman in the cabinet and MLA from Malout.
The Aam Aadmi Party bagged 92 seats in the 117-member Punjab assembly, decimating the Congress, the Shiromani Akali Dal-Bahujan Samaj Party combine, and the BJP-Punjab Lok Congress-SAD (Sanyukt) alliance in recent elections. In the cabinet, the party gave representation to five MLAs from Malwa, four from Majha and one from the Doaba region.
It has accommodated four MLAs who represent reserve constituencies — Dirba, Jandiala, Malout, and Bhoa. Besides, four are Jat Sikhs and two are Hindus.
However, the AAP MLAs who defeated stalwarts, including Congress’s Charanjit Singh Channi, Navjot Singh Sidhu, SAD’s Parkash Singh Badal and Sukhbir Singh Badal, and Punjab Lok Congress chief Amarinder Singh did not find a place in the cabinet.
Of the cabinet members, Cheema, 47, had been the Leader of the Opposition in the previous assembly. An advocate by profession, he defeated Shiromani Akali Dal candidate Gulzar Singh Moonak from the Dirba assembly seat.
Two-time Barnala MLA Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer is the president of the AAP’s youth wing. Hayer, 32, defeated SAD nominee Kulwant Singh Keetu. He completed a B.Tech programme from Swami Vivekanand Institute of Engineering and Technology in 2012.
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