Updated: September 25, 2021 4:49:51 pm
The Congress high command Thursday called newly appointed Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi to Delhi amid confusion over finalising names for his council of ministers.
Channi, who arrived in the national capital in the evening, discussed the list of names for inclusion in his cabinet with All India Congress Committee (AICC) general secretary in-charge of Punjab affairs Harish Rawat. Channi also met party leaders KC Venugopal and Harish Chaudhary. He was scheduled to meet Rahul Gandhi later, but it could not be confirmed if the meeting took place.
State Congress president Navjot Sidhu was not called to Delhi. Working president of the Punjab Congress Sangat Singh Gilzian and party leader Manpreet Singh Badal were also in Delhi, the sources said.
Sources privy to the development said that Channi and his team and Sidhu have shortlisted 23 MLAs out of which 15 would be inducted in the Cabinet. The list is to be vetted by Rahul Gandhi.
Channi is likely to replace a few ministers who are said to be loyal to former CM Capt Amarinder Singh. Sources said that the party has worked on several formulas. Since Congress has named a Schedule Caste person as the CM, it may consider inducting one from Backward Caste with PPCC working president Sangat Singh Gilzian being the frontrunner. Amarinder’s cabinet had three SCs in Channi, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Aruna Chaudhary.
While the party, it is learnt, may drop Dharamsot, it is unsure on Aruna Chaudhary, who is related to Channi. “There was a consideration that she is CM’s relative and it could go against her,” said a source. Channi’s daughter is married to Aruna’s son. The party is also considering inducting Valmiki leader Dr Raj Kumar Verka.
A source said that Rahul was not only clearing names of Cabinet ministers but also of the next DGP and advocate general also. While Channi, it is learnt wants Sidharth Chattopadhaya as DGP and DS Patwalia as AG, these names were yet to get Rahul’s stamp, said a source.
Sources said that the party was also considering dropping all those MLAs from the Cabinet who were above 70. “There was a move to drop all those above 70. But then there were protests in favour of Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who his colleagues said, was a driver of revolt against Amarinder. The high command was told that this would be the most unfortunate part as he had suffered for last three-four months as his supporters were removed from government posts, his nephew was transferred as SSP and the SHO and other officials of his choice were removed from Batala. Amarinder’s government had also prepared a dossier against Bajwa.”
Similarly, Brahm Mohindra is a senior Hindu leader. Annoying him would also send a wrong message, it was felt. Channi had gone to call on him and he may get a berth in his cabinet.
PPCC general secretary incharge Pargat Singh, who is a close aide of Sidhu is also a frontrunner. Other MLAs being considered include Amrinder Singh Raja Warring. It is learnt that Manpreet Badal is opposing his induction. Manpreet, however, is in the reckoning for a berth. Another PPCC working president Kuljit Nagra is also a frontrunner.
Rana Kanwarpal Singh, sources say, is likely to remain the Vidhan Sabha Speaker. Efforts are also on to make Sunil Jakhar agree to accept an offer to be made by the high command. He had earlier declined the offer of Deputy Chief Minister.
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