Fifteen Punjab Congress MLAs were sworn in as ministers in Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s Cabinet on Sunday, reported ANI. Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit administered the oath.
The newly-inducted ministers are Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Aruna Chaudary, Sukhbindr Singh Sarkaria, Rana Gurjeet Singh, Razia Sultana, Vijay Inder Singla, Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Raj Kumar Verka, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Pargat Singh, Randeep Singh Nabha, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring and Gukrirat Singh Kotli.
Of these, Gilzian, Nabha, Warring, Verka, Kotli and Pargat Singh have become ministers for the first time, according to NDTV.
Punjab Congress in-charge Harish Rawat said those who were not part of the expansion will be accommodated in the “government setup”, ANI reported. “This exercise has been done to bring in young faces and strike a social and regional balance,” he added.
The Cabinet expansion took place after former Chief Minister Amarinder Singh stepped down from his post on September 18. Singh had said that he felt humiliated after three emergency meetings were called for his removal. The Congress leader added that he decided to resign as the party’s high command had lost faith in him.
Singh had quit just months before the Punjab Assembly elections, which are likely to take place in February or March next year.
Meanwhile, a group of ministers in the former Singh-led government, including Balbir Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Singh Kangar, on Sunday wrote to Channi raising questions about dropping them from his Cabinet, reported PTI.
Earlier, a section of Punjab Congress leaders also wrote to state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu, demanding that “tainted” Rana Gurjit Singh should not be included. Rana Gurjeet Singh was part of Amarinder Singh’s Cabinet but was dropped in January 2018 for his alleged role in connection with a sand mining scandal.
Channi took oath as the new chief minister on Monday. He is considered close to Navjot Singh Sidhu with whom Amarinder Singh had a long tussle.
Punjab Congress crisis
The tussle between Singh and Sidhu goes back to June 2019, when the latter was a minister in the state government.
At the time, Singh had divested Sidhu of the key portfolios of local government, tourism and cultural affairs and allotted him power and new and renewable energy sources instead. Subsequently, Sidhu submitted his resignation as Cabinet minister on July 15, 2019.
Sidhu has consistently criticised Singh for allegedly not fulfilling his election promises and the delay in bringing the perpetrators of the 2015 sacrilege case to justice. Sikh religious text Guru Granth Sahib had been desecrated at Bargari in Faridkot in 2015.
The crisis within the party had emerged after Sidhu sought a more prominent role in the Congress. Sidhu was then appointed the Congress’ chief in Punjab on July 18.
On August 20, the two leaders had formed a group to improve coordination between the party and the state government.
Nevertheless, confrontations continued between the former chief minister and the state Congress president. Last month, Singh strongly criticised the statements made by two of Sidhu’s advisors about Kashmir and India-Pakistan ties.