Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s acceptance of Navjot Singh Sidhu’s resignation, though expected, has now created a buzz with several aspirants in fray for the lone vacant cabinet berth even as some Congress leaders hoped that the cricketer-turned-politician would continue in the party.
Sidhu’s next move remains a mystery as he has not said anything since making public his resignation on Twitter on July 14 and 15. With his ouster, the number of ministers in the cabinet, including the CM, has come down to 17. Punjab Assembly has total strength of 117 MLAs. The state government is allowed to have 18 ministers in the cabinet.
Amarinder, who in the absence of Sidhu, had been monitoring the functioning of the power department in the wake of ongoing crucial paddy sowing season, has kept the power portfolio with himself, putting a dampener on the efforts being made by the legislators. The buzz in Congress, however, is that CM may fill the vacancy after the byelections to two Assembly seats – Jalalabad and Phagwara, vacated by Sukhbir Singh Badal and Som Parkash, respectively (both elected to Lok Sabha) – are held.
On the top of the list of aspirants is former power minister Rana Gurjeet Singh, who had also faced an unceremonious exit last year after getting embroiled in a controversy when his former employees had bagged sand mines in state’s auction. He was forced to resign after pressure from the then AICC president Rahul Gandhi. With Gandhi not in the saddle anymore, chances of Rana Gurjeet have brightened up.
Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, who took on Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal in the recent Lok Sabha election, is another aspirant.
Others include Randeep Singh Nabha, Surinder Dawar, Rakesh Pandey, Nathu Ram, Surjit Singh Dhiman and Sangat Singh Gilzian.
Earlier, power portfolio was with Gurpreet Singh Kangar. It was allotted to Sidhu in a cabinet rejig on June 6.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders in Punjab described Sidhu’s decision to quit the cabinet as a “mistake” but hoped he would continue to be a part of the Congress.
“Sidhu sahib resigned on his own. The CM wanted him to assume duties and work as power minister. He was not ousted (from cabinet) and he resigned himself,” party MLA Raj Kumar Verka said.
Asked whether Sidhu could leave Congress, Verka said, “I feel he will continue with the party.”
Punjab minister Sadhu Singh Dharamsot also hoped that Sidhu would continue to remain with Congress. “He is a Congressman and will remain Congressman,” said Dharamsot.