When Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi inducted seven new ministers in his cabinet on Sunday, among them was Rana Gurjit Singh, who made a comeback. Rana had resigned in 2018 from the Amarinder Singh Ministry after facing flak from the Opposition over allegations of impropriety in the auction of sand mining contracts. At that time, he had held Irrigation and Power portfolios. LIVE updates
He was re-inducted despite a section of Congress legislators – those close to now-former PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu – objecting to his name for the ministerial berth.
After his shock move on Tuesday, sources close to Sidhu told CNN-News18 that Rana’s name was never on the list sent to the party high command, hinting at a larger conspiracy and a backhanded power play. “The list sent to the Gandhis never had Rana’s name. It was inserted at the last minute without the Gandhis and Sidhu being told,” said the Congress leader.
Interestingly, Sidhu, in his brief resignation letter addressed to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, spoke of ‘character’. “The collapse of a man’s character stems from the compromise corner, I can never compromise on Punjab’s future and the agenda for the welfare of Punjab,” he wrote in his letter to Sonia.
Hours before his induction, a section of Congress leaders from the state had also written to Sidhu demanding that the tainted former minister not be included. The leaders also demanded that the cabinet berth may instead be filled up by giving representation to a clean Dalit leader. A copy of the letter was also sent to Channi.
The letter was written by Mohinder Singh Kaypee, former PPCC president, MLA Sultanpur Navtej Singh Cheema, MLA Phagwara Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal, Jalandhar North legislator Bawa Henry, Chabbewal legislator Raj Kumar, MLA Sham Churasi, Pawan Adiya and Bholath legislator Sukhpal Singh Khaira. Khaira had defected from the Aam Aadmi Party and joined Congress recently. We the undersigned MLAs and leaders of Doaba wish to convey huge resentment amongst the public and the Congress cadre on the proposed inclusion of tainted Rana Gurjit Singh.
“Needless to mention, he was dropped from the cabinet in January 2018 due to the infamous mining scandal,” they alleged in the letter while detailing various allegations which were made against Rana Gurjit at that time. “We wonder why Rana Gurjit Singh is being included in Cabinet as he was dropped in January 2018 because of these charges..,” they wrote. They also pointed out that despite the Doaba region having approximately 38 percent Dalit population, no representation in the proposed cabinet expansion has been given to a leader from the community.