Day after finalising the list of ministers in Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi’s Cabinet, the Congress has now tweaked it following a meeting with AICC leader Rahul Gandhi that continued past Friday midnight. After the list got finalised, Channi met Governor Banwarilal Purohit following which he said 15 ministers in his Cabinet will take oath at 4:30 pm on Sunday.
Sources said that party has been able to reach a consensus on inducting seven MLAs and dropping five from former chief minister Amarinder Singh’s cabinet.
— Kanchan Vasdev (@kanchan99) September 25, 2021
In the meeting, where Congress leaders KC Venugopal, Harish Rawat, Harish Chaudhary and Ajay Maken were also present, the party reached a consensus on dropping former Health Minister Balbir Sidhu, Revenue Minister Gurpreet Singh Kangar, Industries Minister Sunder Sham Arora, Social Welfare Minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Sports Minister Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi.
The meeting also reached a consensus on re-inducting former Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh. He was earlier a minister in Amarinder’s Cabinet but had stepped down after an alleged scam in allotment of sand mines to his ex-employees.
Others who were finalised last night include PPCC general secretary incharge Pargat Singh, PPCC Working President, Kuljit Nagra and Gidderbaha MLA Amrinder Singh Raja Warring. They are PPCC chief Navjot Singh Sidhu’s choices. Sidhu pushed for them even as Channi was learnt to be opposing the induction of Pargat and Nagra on the plea that they were holding important positions in party organisation and they would not be able to do justice if they are given more responsibility.
Former Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal was also opposing Warring tooth and nail. But Sidhu is learnt to have had his way.
Sources said other new faces on which the party leaders reached a consensus included Dr Raj Kumar Verka, PPCC working president Sangat Singh Gilzian and Gurkirat Kotli.
The party has for now decided to retain Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Badal, Sukhbinder Sarkaria, Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Vijay Inder Singla, Aruna Chaudhary, Razia Sultana and Bharat Bhushan Ashu. The portfolios of these ministers are likely to remain unchanged.
“The party is now waiting to get clearance from Sonia Gandhi. Till the time she clears the list, we are keeping our fingers crossed. In Congress, last minutes changes take place and one never knows,” an MLA tipped to be a minister said.
Channi was again called to Delhi by the Congress high command to discuss the new state Cabinet, just hours after he had returned from the national capital. Channi had already reached Punjab when he was summoned again. Curiously, the party high command has not called Sidhu for both the meetings in a row.
Due to a tug of war between the Punjab leaders, Rahul Gandhi is learnt to have vetoed the move to appoint Deepinder Singh Patwalia as Advocate General. Sidhu was supporting Patwalia strongly. A few party leaders from Punjab complained to Gandhi that Patwalia’s family had BJP leanings. Gandhi then asked Channi to appoint someone else, sources privy to development said. The government is now planning to appoint Anmol Rattan Singh Sidhu as next AG. The formal order is however awaited. Sidhu and former DGP Mohd Mustafa were backing Patwalia but the appointment could not come through.
Meanwhile, IP Sahota got the charge of new Punjab DGP.
On Thursday, the secretariat was abuzz that Sidhu’s aide Smit Singh would be appointed as media advisor to Channi. But the move was stalled. Smit Singh on Friday tweeted that he was neither offered the job nor did he ask for it.