Infighting in the Punjab Congress seemed to have cast a shadow on the Cabinet meet held Wednesday with a few ministers joining the virtual meeting reluctantly which the CM then wrapped up after taking up only 2 agenda points out of the 32 listed.
The meeting, which began at 3 pm, ended in around 20 minutes.
In the first few minutes of the meeting, six ministers including Sukhbinder Sarkaria, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Charanjeet Singh Channi and Aruna Chaudhary did not join till the CM asked for their presence.
All these ministers have been camping in Delhi as the three-member committee of the Congress is holding meetings with party leaders for last two days.
At the start, the CM is learnt to have asked if the quorum of the meeting was complete and he was told that several ministers had not joined in. He was told that these six ministers were at Punjab Bhawan in Delhi, but had not reached the committee room where arrangements were made for the ministers to join in.
Amarinder then asked if there was any minister who had already joined from the Punjab Bhawan committee room. To this, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu and Education Minister Vijay Inder Singla responded saying they were online from Punjab Bhawan.
The CM, sources said, then asked Singla to get his colleagues to join the meeting. Then all six joined virtually, but the CM ended the meeting after taking up only two agenda items including an approval to Malerkotla district and creation of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) for multi-village surface water supply schemes across the state.
“The CM said that he did not want to bother the ministers as Congress is seeing busy days due to the meetings of the 3-member panel. But since he wanted to inaugurate Malerkotla district on June 5, this meeting needed to be called. After these two agendas were passed quickly, he wounded up the meeting,” a source close to the CM said.
A minister said, “In my four-year tenure as a Cabinet minister, I have not seen 32 agenda items, including supplementary agendas listed for a Cabinet meeting. Also during my tenure, I have never seen the CM winding up the meeting after taking up two agenda items.”
The Cabinet did not take up two important agenda points of implementation of 6th pay commission report and also of two MLAs sons appointments on government posts.
Out of the 17 members of the Cabinet including the CM, 16 attended the meeting. The only one absent was O P Soni, who could not be contacted about the reason for his absence.
Meanwhile, ministers in the camp opposed to the CM said that they had decided to boycott the meeting.
“The high command has to give us a solution. We do not want to attend a meeting with the CM chairing it when his leadership is in question. But then we decided that we will wait for the high command’s verdict after the 3-member panel report,” a source said.
A few of these ministers have been camping in Delhi and have not returned even after being heard by the panel. They have been holding meetings with the MLAs and leaders who have been arriving in Delhi to appear before the panel.
Impasse to end soon, says former Union minister
Senior Congress leader and former Union minister Dr Ashwini Kumar on Wednesday hoped that the party high command’s intervention will soon help end the impasse in Punjab Congress.
“This is probably the first of its kind initiative. It is an extensive exercise for eliciting the views of MLAs and other leaders. The scale of interaction and the quantum of time devoted has been very fruitful. The purpose is to provide a platform to all party leaders to speak candidly and freely in a one-on-one meetings,” he said.
Dr Kumar added that the meeting were highly constructive, adding that the whole exercise was critically important as it was letting the steam out and providing inputs for consideration.
“None of the issues are new. These have been there in the public domain for a while. The elections are looming on the horizon. I am hopeful that the impasse will be resolved very soon,” he said.
The senior party leader said no one has so far sought any major changes. “It is all a constructive engagement. The effort by the high command is to accommodate divergent views to strengthen the party and the government both.” (Express News Service)
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