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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Punjab: At CM-Rawat meet, Amarinder raises Cabinet reshuffle, wants to drop two rebel

CM Capt Amarinder Singh also allegedly proposed to Rawat that he wants Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Rana Kanwarpal Singh, inducted into the Cabinet and hand over the important departments of water resources, mining and geology to his aide, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
September 1, 2021 11:01:04 pm
Capt amarinder singh, punjab cm, harish rawat, punjab congress, punjab cabinet reshuffle, indian express, indian express news, current affairs, punjab newsPunjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh. (File)

ON A mission to resolve the internal feud that has been brewing within the Congress, the party’s general secretary in-charge, Harish Rawat, met Punjab Chief Minister, Captain Amarinder Singh, at his farmhouse in Siswan on Wednesday, even as the CM pressed for a rejig in his Cabinet.

Amarinder, during the meeting, apparently handed over a proposed list for a Cabinet reshuffle. It is learnt that the CM told Rawat that he wanted to drop two ministers from the Cabinet — Rural Development and Panchayat Minister Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa and Housing, Water Resources, Mines and Geology Minister, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria. Both the ministers are among a list of four who have launched a rebellion against the CM.

Amarinder also allegedly proposed to Rawat that he wants Vidhan Sabha Speaker, Rana Kanwarpal Singh, inducted into the Cabinet and hand over the important departments of water resources, mining and geology to his aide, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi. Rana Sodhi is the Sports Minister and has been the main trouble-shooter of the CM. The mining department is considered a plum portfolio in the state.

Sources said that Rawat apparently told the CM that such kind of reshuffle may not be possible as it would look like witch-hunting and create more trouble for the Congress in the state. Sources said that Amarinder had earlier proposed the removal of Technical Education Minister, Charanjit Singh Channi, also but he had “changed his mind” on him now.

In a meeting that went on for about five hours, the CM briefed Rawat — in the presence of DGP Dinkar Gupta, Advocate General, Atul Nanda, STF chief, Harpreet Sidhu, and other officials — on several issues that were raised by Congress Punjab in-charge Navjot Singh Sidhu on Tuesday.

After taking a briefing from the officials, Rawat had a one-on-one meeting with the Chief Minister and is said to have asked him to placate the rebel ministers.

After meeting the CM, Rawat told the media that he had spoken to the CM about the ministers who were upset with him. “Maine CM sahib ko unki narazagi ke baare mein bataya. Ab yeh CM ke upar hai ke who mantriyon ki naraazagi kaise door karte hain. (I have told the CM that some ministers are upset. Now, it is up to the CM as to how he placates them.”
Rawat said.

He said he discussed a number of issues, including the controversial Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs), drugs, transport and sacrilege, with the CM.

Toeing Amarinder’s line on power agreements, Rawat said that not all 122 PPAs can be cancelled. “These are tripartite agreements. These are not like water agreements that can be annulled. There are private thermal plants, state government and the Centre.”

At the same time, he said, the government should make electricity cheaper for people of the state by working on some points.

On the issue of sacrilege, he said that it was a very sensitive matter. “ The High Court has quashed the SIT and its report. The government should fulfil its promise made to the people of the state.”

Rawat said the state was involved in a “big fight” against drugs but several party members wanted that the STF report, lying in an envelope in the High Court, should be opened and the government should make efforts towards the same.

He said that Punjab had taken a good stand on the Centre’s farm laws. After Punjab negated these laws in the Assembly, several other states had taken a cue and followed suit, he said.

REBELS REFUSE TO MEET RAWAT

While Rawat met Navjot Sidhu and CM Amarinder Singh during his two-day visit to Chandigarh, rebel ministers Sukhjinder Randhawa, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Charanjeet Channi and Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria have refused to meet him. Randhawa, told The Indian Express, “We have already met him and told him what all we wanted. He already knows what we want. Hence, there is no point in meeting him.”

The four ‘rebel’ ministers had met Rawat in Dehradun a few days ago. After the meeting, Rawat had come out in support of the CM saying that Amarinder will lead the party’s campaign in the next elections, upsetting the ministers.

SIDHU IN DELHI

After meeting Rawat on Tuesday, Congress’ Punjab chief Navjot Sidhu left for Delhi and is likely to meet AICC general secretary, Priyanka Gandhi, on Thursday. The Punjab government has scheduled a meeting of 10-member coordination committee between the PPCC and the government on Thursday. Amarinder is the chairman of the committee. Sidhu is likely to skip the first meeting. Sources close to him said that Sidhu did not want to attend any meeting that was being chaired by Amarinder Singh.

Meanwhile, Sidhu’s strategic advisor and former DGP Mohd Mustafa also met Rawat and told the media that he had given an “advice” to Rawat that had the potential to end the crisis in the Congress in Punjab. He said every Congressman wanted that the Congress should form the government again in the state. “We all want that to happen and we are working towards that,” he said.

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