PUNJAB CHIEF Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday withdrew Department of Environment from his Cabinet colleague OP Soni’s portfolio.
Amarinder has taken over the Department of Environment himself and handed Soni the Department of Food Processing. Soni is also the Minister of Education. The education department continues to be with Soni.
Sources told The Indian Express that Amarinder was unhappy with the Soni’s functioning. Several industrialists of the state, who have to seek several clearances from the Department of Environment, were also protesting against the minister. The complaints had reached the Chief Minister’s Office in the recent past. Even on Tuesday, several
industrialists were seen in the CMO, trying to meet the functionaries.
A few minutes after the CMO issued a statement about the reshuffle in the Cabinet, calling”it a “minor” reshuffle, Soni told The Indian Express that he was not aware about the development. He said there was no complaint against him.
On why was his portfolio changed, Soni”said,”I do not know. I have not been been told about it. I am hearing it from you. There was no complaint against me. May be the Chief Minister wanted to keep the department with himself. This department was already with him and may be he wanted it”back,” said Soni, who did not sound pleased with the development.
The orders came in the evening. Incidentally, Soni was with the CM during the day. He was seen seated with the CM at the funeral of Amarinder’s political secretary Karan Pal Sekhon, who was cremated in Manimajra on Tuesday.
On Monday also, Soni was with the CM when he visited Amritsar after the grenade attack on a Nirankari congregation.
Soni said he did not have any idea that his department would be taken away.
The statement by CMO said, “In a minor cabinet reshuffle, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has taken over the Environment portfolio in a step towards further facilitating industrial development in the state. The portfolio was earlier held by OP Soni, who has now been allocated the Food Processing department. Soni will also continue to hold the School Education portfolio,” said the statement, adding that the Chief Minister announced his decision Tuesday evening.
The issue of withdrawal of the Department of Environment was discussed in Amarinder’s meeting with AICC president Rahul Gandhi recently.