Congress leader Navjot Singh Sidhu’s resignation from Punjab Cabinet has raised hopes of a number of state leaders, who have been seeking a berth in the Cabinet but were denied.
Though Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is yet to accept Sidhu’s resignation, all eyes are on the contenders for the berth. Leading the pack is former Power and Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, a close aide of the Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who had to resign after getting embroiled in a conflict-of-interest row over his former employees bagging sand mines in the first auction by the state’s Congress government.
While he was given a clean chit by Justice J S Narang Commission, set up by Amarinder to look into the allegations of impropriety against him, he had to resign at the insistence of the then AICC president Rahul Gandhi. Rana Gurjit had put in his papers from the Cabinet after that.
He was upset with the Chief Minister for a long time, but has buried his differences now, sources said. The Congress camp feels that with party high command not in command anymore, it would not be difficult for Amarinder to reinduct him.
“If the high command had had their way, Sidhu would not have quit. Do you think Captain was not pressured? But why should anyone press a Chief Minister to accommodate another leader? A CM also has prestige. He just cannot be a push-over,” said a Cabinet minister privy to the developments pertaining to Sidhu.
There are others including MLAs Randeep Singh Nabha, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Rakesh Pandey, Surinder Dawer, Nathu Ram and Surjit Singh Dhiman, who have been seeking a berth in the Cabinet.
Nabha was once considered close to former PPCC chief Partap Bajwa and then joined Amarinder camp. Amarinder was a frequent at Nabha’s dinners. Later, after he was denied a seat in Cabinet, he got upset.
Gilzian has been seeking a berth on account of being a leader belonging to backward class, Pandey has been seeking a place for being the senior most MLA. Amarinder’s Cabinet had 18 ministers including the CM. With Sidhu resigning, a berth will fall vacant if his resignation is accepted.
Sources said with bypolls staring the Congress in the face, the CM may delay an induction as each time induction and rejig has left several red faces in the party.
POWER DEPT JINX
Sidhu has become the second minister who has resigned from the Cabinet after Rana Gurjeet. Incidentally, Rana Gurjit also had the Power department when he had to resign. Now, Sidhu was handed the department of Power and he too had to resign. Before this Gurpreet Singh Kangar was the Power Minister and clouds of uncertainty were hanging over him also as Amarinder had earlier sought approval from the high command to withdraw his portfolio.
After Rana Gurjit, another Cabinet Minister Charanjit Singh Channi had landed in a row after a woman IAS officer had accused him of sending an inappropriate text and none other than the Chief Minister had confirmed the development. But Channi somehow survived the controversy and is now strongly on the CM’s side.