A day after Punjab Cabinet ministers sparred with Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh over the issue of providing relief to liquor contractors due to curfew, Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal said he stands by his actions.
“I did not overreact. I will go for tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting. I am the Finance Minister. It is our government and not of the Chief Secretary,” he told The Indian Express.
All eyes are on Monday’s Cabinet meeting as to whether the excise policy drafted by CS would be approved by the ministers or they would stick to their stand. Manpreet was the first to walk out of the pre-Cabinet meeting on excise policy on Saturday after an argument with the Chief Secretary. The ministers opposed the proposal of the government to give relief to the liquor vendors, who are not opening the vends citing losses due to curfew and are seeking relaxation.
A number of Cabinet ministers including Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Charanjeet Singh Channi, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Gurpreet Singh Kangar and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa met at the latter’s residence on Sunday evening to discuss the strategy for the Cabinet meeting.
Sources said several issues were discussed including the distilleries that were indulging in unlawful practices and causing loss to the state exchequer and also a distillery in Khanna that was functional even during the curfew allegedly under the patronage of some officials.
The minister discussed that they would also demand from the government an audit of the quota for nine days from March 23 uptill March 31, during the curfew as the amendment in excise policy discussed giving them relief during those days.
It is learnt that Chief Minister Amarinder Singh called up a few ministers and told them the vends should be opened soon so the state does not lose revenue. Some ministers said they demanded that Chief Secretary should not be present in the meeting.
The meeting, originally scheduled for 3 pm, has be preponed by an hour due to Prime Minister’s video conference with Chief Ministers. The ministers will hold a meeting amongst themselves again in the morning before the Cabinet.
Resentment against officials was brewing
Resentment against bureaucracy in the state has been brewing for the past three years. It has often come out in open in the past. But it grew manifold during state’s war against COVID-19 when the Chief Minister was perceived to be at the forefront holding and officials were perceived to be holding the fort. The minister were seen to be pushed on the sidelines even as the CM had ordered them to stay indoors and practise social distancing. There were mumblings that political feedback on the situation was not taken.
With Ludhiana MP Ravneet Singh Bittu seeking ministers’ resignation after their walkout, the ministers did not react to his statement. It is learnt that the ministers are preparing to write to AICC interim president Sonia Gandhi as the Congress became a laughing stock with both opposition parties including Shiromani Akali Dal and AAP taking potshots at the government. While SAD leader Dr Daljit Cheema said the Cabinet ministers had lost faith in their government, AAP’s Harpal Cheema said the ministers should muster up courage and part ways with their government. Former Deputy Speaker of Vidhan Sabha Bir Devinder Singh said in Punjab bureacucracy was reigning supreme as democracy had taken a back seat in Punjab.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines