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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Punjab cabinet expansion: Before oath-taking, last-minute drama of additions, omissions

The party was barely able to decide on all the names of ministers till a few hours before the oath-taking ceremony.

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
September 27, 2021 2:14:46 am
Controversial MLA Rana Gurjit Singh takes oath at the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh on Sunday. (Express)

IT TOOK six days, three physical meetings and two V-Cs for the Congress party to decide on a final Cabinet list—and even that was tweaked at the last minute on Sunday.

The party was barely able to decide on all the names of ministers till a few hours before the oath-taking ceremony. It had not submitted the list till afternoon. At the last minute, PPCC working president and Fatehgarh Sahib MLA, Kuljit Nagra’s name was dropped. Amloh MLA, Kaka Randeep Singh Nabha was included instead.

While the list was finalised by senior party leaders including Rahul Gandhi, K C Venugopal, Harish Chaudhary, Harish Rawat and Punjab CM Charanjit Singh Channi Wednesday, they had to tweak it further late Friday. After a protest by Nabha, Channi had two V-Cs with Rahul Gandhi. They had deliberated on dropping Gurkirat Singh Kotli from the list, but later changed their minds as he was former chief minister Beant Singh’s grandson. His grandfather was associated with routing of the militancy from the state and was well-liked in Punjab.

Sources said they finally decided to drop Nagra, who said he was never on the list. “I had resigned from the Vidhan Sabha on farm laws. I am not even an MLA. How can I be a minister?” he asked. His resignation was never accepted by the Speaker.

Congress general secretary in-charge Harish Rawat defended the party after the swearing-in: “There was no flip-flop. Our list was final. The media created an issue out of nowhere.”

Defending the induction of Rana Gurjit Singh, whose name had come up in a 2017 mining scandal, Rawat said, “Where is the controversy? He was exonerated by a departmental inquiry against him. Where is the taint?”

On two former ministers, Balbir Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Kangar, protesting over being dropped, he said, “The party will accommodate everyone. We have roles for everyone. We will not let anyone be upset with us.”

Brahm Mohindra, who was the second-most senior minister in Amarinder’s Cabinet, has been demoted to no. 4 after Channi took oath with two other ministers.

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