Captain Amarinder Singh (75) was on Thursday sworn in as the 26th Chief Minister of Punjab in a ceremony attended by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and other prominent Congress leaders at Punjab Raj Bhawan. Amarinder and his nine-member council of ministers were sworn in by Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore. This is Amarinder’s second stint as the CM.
The ministers who took oath along with Amarinder are: six-time MLA Brahm Mohindra, cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Singh Badal, the former finance minister and estranged nephew of outgoing CM Parkash Singh Badal, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, four-time MLA from Majha and a confidant of Amarinder, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, another Amarinder loyalist, Rana Gurjit Singh and former CLP leader Charanjit Singh Channi.
Two women MLAs, Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana, were sworn in as Ministers of State (MoS) with independent charge. While Amarinder and Rana Gurjit took the oath of office in English, Aruna Chaudhary took oath in Hindi. Brahm Mohindra, Navjot Sidhu, Manpreet Badal, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Tripat Rajinder Bajwa, Charanjit Singh Channi and Razia Sultana took oath in Punjabi.
Besides Rahul and Dr Singh, the prominent faces at the ceremony included Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, former Haryana CM Bhupinder Singh Hooda, former Punjab CM Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, senior Congress leaders Ambika Soni, Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma, Pawan Bansal, Asha Kumari, Sachin Pilot, Harish Chaudhary, Ashwani Kumar, Raj Babbar, Ashok Tanwar and Ajay Maken, MPs Ravneet Singh Bittu and Partap Singh Bajwa, as well as former Union minister Natwar Singh.
Amarinder’s wife, former Union minister Preneet Kaur, and their children Jay Inder Kaur and Raninder Singh also attended the ceremony.
Those conspicuous by their absence included former CLP leader Sunil Jakhar, who lost in his family constituency of Abohar. Outgoing CM Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy CM Sukhbir Singh Badal also did not attend the function.
AAP leaders Sukhpal Khaira and suspended MP Harinder Singh Khalsa were the only ones from the party to attend the function.
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Amarinder on Twitter. After the ceremony, Amarinder assumed charge following “Sarv Dharam Prarthana” with hymns from the Bhagwad Gita, Guru Granth Sahib, Quran and the Bible filling the air as he entered his office.
In a statement issued by the Chief Minister’s Office, Amarinder reiterated his promise to constitute a Special Task Force (STF) to rid Punjab of the menace of drugs within four weeks, as promised in the Congress manifesto.
He said he was committed to fulfilling all his electoral promises and his government would take several important decisions in this regard at its first meeting scheduled for Saturday.
The CM said farm loan waiver, industrial revival and employment were some of the other programmes high on his government’s agenda, which he would take up on priority.
There were murmurs of relief in the Congress after Sidhu, who joined the party days before the February 4 Assembly elections, was not given the post of Deputy Chief Minister in the new government.
When asked why he was not named as Deputy Chief Minister, Sidhu told The Indian Express: “I have no clue. It is up to Captain Sahib and Rahul Gandhi.” He made no other comment.