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Facing ‘greenhorn’ charge, Mann govt dons new, senior colours

Seasoned Aman Arora, biggest winner of 2022 polls, is now No. 3 in Cabinet.

Two-time MLA Aman Arora during the oath-taking ceremony at Punjab Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh, July 04, 2022. (Express photo by Jaipal Singh)

Senior AAP leader and two-time MLA Aman Arora is now the No.3 in the Bhagwant Mann-led Punjab Cabinet, following a reshuffle earlier this week. Facing several embarrassments, attributed by the Opposition to “inexperience”, the AAP government seems to be on a public relations drive, roping in more seasoned leaders to blunt the attack.

This is a change from when it came to power and kept out almost all of them, barring Finance Minister Harpal Cheema. Senior leaders such as Arora, Sarvjit Kaur Manuke, Baljinder Kaur, Principal Budh Ram, Jai Krishan Rouri, Kultar Sandhwan, were not given any portfolios.

The Opposition has been using its choice of ministers to hit the AAP government where it is most vulnerable — its newcomer status. The latest issue which it has seized upon is the resignation of senior lawyer Anmol Rattan Singh Sidhu as Advocate General, and replacement of senior officials such as Anirudh Tewari as Chief Secretary and V K Bhawra as DGP.

Earlier this month, Mann had made the first correction, expanding his Cabinet to induct five new ministers, including Arora, who got Information & PR, Housing & Urban Development, and New & Renewable Energy portfolios. He was then at No. 10 in the leadership order.

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Now, following a July 25 rejig, Arora, 47, is No. 3.

A prominent party face, Arora brings with him experience and political lineage. His father, Bhagwan Das, was a Congressman and served as minister. Arora was also once considered close to former CM Amarinder Singh, before he left the Congress to join AAP in 2016.

In the 2017 Assembly polls, he won from the Sunam seat by 30,307 votes. In 2022, he expanded his victory margin to 75,277 votes, against Congress candidate Jaswinder Dhiman – the biggest in the state.

This political heft puts him in a position to be an articulate face of the party, and the shift has already begun: Arora recently organised an introductory lunch and meeting with the media, a first by any minister in the government, including CM Mann.

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The 15-member Cabinet structure at the moment is as follows: Bhagwant Mann, Harpal Cheema, Aman Arora, Baljit Kaur, Gurmeet Singh Meet Hayer, Kuldeep Singh Dhaliwal, Bram Shankar Jimpa, Lal Chand Kataruchak, Dr Inderbir Nijjar, Laljit Bhullar, Harjot Bains, Harbhajan Singh ETO, Fauja Singh Sarari, Chetan Singh Jouamajra and Anmol Gagan Mann.

The Cabinet now has three ministers apart from CM Mann – Arora, Cheema and Meet Hayer – with Assembly seats in the Sangrur parliamentary seat. The constituency, once held by Mann, was lost by AAP in a bypoll last month.

First published on: 30-07-2022 at 02:51:34 pm
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