Hours after Navjot Singh Sidhu slammed Amarinder Singh for singling him out for the Congress’s “poor performance” in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls, the Chief Minister divested him of his Local Bodies, Tourism and Culture portfolios.
The portfolio reshuffle took place hours after the first state Cabinet meeting following the Lok Sabha elections. With the Congress government in the state nearing the mid-term mark, Captain Amarinder hoped the exercise would also re-energise his team and bring freshness into the working of the major departments.
Amarinder has changed portfolios of all minister except four. They include Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (Forests, Printing & Stationery, SC/BC Welfare), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (Cooperation, Jails), Sunder Sham Arora (Industries & Commerce), and Bharat Bhushan Ashu (Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs).
Sidhu has instead been given the departments of Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources. His Local Bodies department has been handed to Brahm Mohindra, who was earlier holding the Health and Family Welfare portfolio.
Sidhu’s other portfolio of Tourism and Cultural Affairs went to Charanjit Singh Channi, who retains Technical Education, Industrial Training and Employment General.
Balbir Sidhu has been handed over the Health Department and his portfolio of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy has been entrusted to Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, along with Higher Education. Bajwa also retained Rural Development and Panchayats. Bajwa has been given Higher Education and Animal Husbandry because the government intends to give greater priority to these sectors, said a government statement.
However, Bajwa has been divested of Housing and Urban Development. Bajwa is considered close to the Chief Minister and changing his portfolio may cast a reflection on him. Housing and Urban Development has been handed over to Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, in place of Revenue, which goes to Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who is also handling Rehabilitation and Disaster Management.
Manpreet Singh Badal, who continues to take care of Finance, Planning and Programme Implementation but the Chief Minister has decided to take Governance Reforms into his own fold. School Education has been shifted from Om Prakash Soni to Vijay Inder Singla, who retains Public Works but hands over Information Technology to Amarinder.
Soni will now take care of Medical Education & Research, Freedom Fighters and Food Processing departments.
In addition to Sports & Youth Affairs, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi will now also be in charge of NRI Affairs, which was under the Chief Minister’s purview earlier. Transport has been moved from Aruna Chowdhary’s basket and handed over to Razia Sultana, who retains Water Supply but has been divested of Higher Education. Aruna Chowdhary takes over the Social Security, Women & Child Development departments.
Earlier in the day, Sidhu stayed away from the first Cabinet meeting which was held after the recently-held Lok Sabha elections.
Addressing media at his official residence, Sidhu asked: “Why should I attend the meeting when there is a trust deficit in me? My seat in the Cabinet is three inches away from the Chief Minister. If he had expressed distrust in me publicly, where is the point in being seated next to him?”
Releasing his report card, Sidhu said the Congress had done better in cities than rural areas in the election, without naming Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, who also holds the portfolio of Rural Development Minister.
“Facts will not cease to exist if they are ignored. I live in the space where there is no fear and the head is held high. I am duty bound to the people of Punjab, to bring out what is factually correct. To help put things in the correct perspective, let’s follow the PPCC’s methodology for demarcating seats, out of the total 117 assembly segments in Punjab, 63 are considered as rural while 54 seats are accounted for as urban & semi-urban assembly segments. The recent results for the urban & semi-urban areas were 63 per cent, winning 34 out of 54 seats. While in the purely urban assembly segments, we have won 64 per cent by winning 16 out of 25 seats. In the rural areas, Congress party bagged 35 out of 63 seats, making it 55 per cent,“ he said.
In the recently held general election, Congress won eight out of the 13 seats. The SAD-BJP combine won four while the AAP managed to win only one seat.