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Monday, July 06, 2020

Punjab: Ministers row ends as top bureaucrat apologises in Cabinet meet

After the meeting, Manpreet Badal told the media that the CS had apologised for “his choice of words, his body language and his attitude that day and said he would not repeat it in future”. He added: “Democracy has won. In democracy, representatives of the people are more important than bureaucracy.”

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh | Published: May 27, 2020 11:44:26 pm
punjab chief secretary, Karan Avtar Singh, punjab cabinet meet, punjab cabinet ministers, Amarinder Singh, punjab finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal, indian express news The development came a day after CM Amarinder Singh hosted Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Technical Education Minister Charanjeet Singh Channi for a lunch meeting aimed at thawing the tension between the ministers and the top bureaucrat. (File)

The 18-day stand-off between Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh and Cabinet ministers ended on Wednesday with the CS apologising to the ministers and the latter accepting his apology in the Cabinet meeting specially called for the purpose.

The development came a day after CM Amarinder Singh hosted Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Technical Education Minister Charanjeet Singh Channi for a lunch meeting aimed at thawing the tension between the ministers and the top bureaucrat. Before this he had also hosted Cabinet Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, PPCC president Sunil Jakhar and three MLAs to discuss the same issue.

At the very beginning of the Cabinet meeting Wednesday, the CS apologised to the ministers soon after the CM kick-started the proceedings formally. The Chief Secretary also assured the Cabinet that this would not be repeated in the future.

Manpreet Badal and Channi accepted the apology in the Cabinet, one after the other, as the former said CS had apologised thrice and Indian culture advocated forgiveness. Channi also seconded it. He is learnt to have said that the CS had texted his apology to him and later even tried to call him. But Channi had not responded deliberately as Cabinet had unanimously decided to boycott him. Transport Minister Razia Sultana is also backed both ministers in accepting the top bureaucrat’s apology. Later, the CM is learnt to have said that the issue now stands resolved.

The apology and its acceptance ended in about five minutes and the Cabinet moved on to the agenda.

After the meeting, Manpreet Badal told the media that the CS had apologised for “his choice of words, his body language and his attitude that day and said he would not repeat it in future”. He added: “Democracy has won. In democracy, representatives of the people are more important than bureaucracy.”

Manpreet Badal added, “He has in fact apologised thrice. First, it was soon after the meeting, second he came to my village to condole my father’s demise and apologised, and finally it was today. The entire Cabinet said we are not angels that we do not make mistakes and to err is human. If someone has apologised thrice, then we would not be human if we do not accept it. It will smack of false pride and God hates that.” Quoting a couplet from Hazrat Moosa, he said, “The chapter has ended. What I make of it is that MLAs and ministers are always in a hurry. They have to show results in five years and then have to go to people’s court. But bureaucrats have 35 years of service. The frequency and speed mismatch causes such issues. “

To a question about Rs 600 crore shortfall of excise target and conflict of interest allegations against the CS, Manpreet Badal said, “I understand that CS has given in writing to the CM that his son had no involvement in liquor business in Punjab. Either CM or CS can answer this question.”

Manpreet Badal was the first one to walk out on CS during a meeting on excise alleging impudence and misbehaviour by the CS. Later, the Cabinet had decided to boycott any meeting with CS present. Amarinder had to step in to bring about a truce as the row continued for 18 days beginning May 9 with several MLAs joining in and demanding Karan Avtar Singh’s ouster.

Jails Minister Sukhjinder Randhawa, who had also walked out of the Cabinet meeting then, told the media that he had no issue with the CS anymore. He said: “My Cabinet colleagues had an issue with him. I was expressing solidarity with them. If they (Cabinet colleagues) have forgiven him then same goes for me.”

Panchayats Minister Tript Bajwa said the matter was sorted. He, however, refused to answer a question as to whether the CS apologised or not.

On Wednesday, the CM reached secretariat 45 minutes before the Cabinet was to start. It was after almost two months that he attended a meeting in person amid Covid pandemic. Before the start of the meeting, he ensured a one-on-one between Manpreet Badal and CS in the secretariat before the formal meeting.

As the Cabinet sorted the CS issue, Sukhjinder Randhawa demanded an inquiry against himself in spurious seed scam alleged by Akalis. He is learnt to have told the CM that an inquiry should be conducted against him and if he is found guilty then he should be booked and if not then Bikram Majithia should be booked for false allegations. Randhawa is learnt to have expressed displeasure that no one from his party came to his rescue to hit back at Majithia.

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