Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh will not be attending NITI Aayog meeting to be held in New Delhi on Saturday. He expressed his inability to travel citing health reasons.
Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh will be Punjab’s representative at the meeting, but he will not be able to argue on the state’s agenda. In the CM’s absence, the coordinator of the meeting would read out the state’s demands.
Amarinder, it is learnt, had deputed Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal to take up the state’s agenda for discussion at the meeting. However, sources said the NITI Aayog does not allow anyone other than the chief minister to do so. Hence, Punjab’s proposal of sending Manpreet to represent the CM was declined, they added.
However, it was learnt that the Aayog has told the state that they would allow the chief secretary to sit through the meeting but he would not be allowed to speak.
The development also means that his expected meeting with senior party leader Ahmed Patel and AICC president Rahul Gandhi — for a decision on Cabinet Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu — is also set to get delayed.
Sources said the chief minister had suffered from gastritis after returning from a holiday in Himachal Pradesh. He returned to Chandigarh on Thursday and was set to go to Delhi on Friday.
At the meeting, the state will be taking up issues including underground water shortage, Border Area Development Funds, farm debt waiver and extension of the PM-Kisan Yojna to farm labourers and landless farmers besides others.
With Amarinder’s absence, the state is likely to lose an opportunity to convey its point strongly. Several members of his Cabinet feel that nobody can replace Amarinder for strongly raising the issues of farmers. “It is our loss. Our CM raises a point and Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes him seriously,” said a Cabinet minister.
Congress sources said it was expected that Amarinder would meet Patel after the NITI Aayog meeting as he was scheduled to stay in Delhi for a few days. Rahul, who is on a tour to London, is also set to return before Lok Sabha session starts on June 17. It is uncertain when the discussion about Sidhu would take place.
Sidhu, who was handed over the power department last Thursday after being stripped of his key Local Bodies portfolio, has not taken charge of his new department. He has been missing in action after meeting Rahul in Delhi on Monday and is awaiting the intervention of the high command.