There’s discontent, especially due to ‘meatier’ portfolios given to Aruna Chaudhary, Razia
I have requested the CM that the urban development and local government are under one minister at the Centre and compliment each other. It should be the same in Punjab as well. NAVJOT SINGH SIDHU, local government minister
CHANDIGARH : It’s barely a week since the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress assumed power in Punjab, but the first rumblings are already audible in the corridors of power. Reason: While wings of some leaders have been clipped, others are “flying high”.
On March 16, when Amarinder took oath as CM along with nine ministers, former leader of opposition Charanjit Singh Channi was sworn in seventh in the pecking order as a cabinet minister. Even the portfolio allotted to the three-time MLA is technical education and industrial training.
In contrast, Aruna Chaudhary, a minister of state with independent charge, has been given the meatier department of school and higher education. Another minister of state with independent charge, Razia Sultana, has been allotted PWD (B&R) along with women and child development. Razia’s husband, Mohammad Mustafa, a DGP-rank officer in Punjab, is known to call the shots in her constituency and had lobbied for either being appointed as state DGP or a plum department for Razia.
Aruna’s husband, Ashok Chaudhary, is a retired bureaucrat and Congress leader. The Chaudharys courted a controversy on Wednesday after the husband was seen perusing department files sitting next to his wife. Some Congress leaders are already asking why both Razia and Aruna were given minister of state ranks with the high-profile departments and why Channi was given a cabinet rank and a “light-weight” department.
“In the previous government, the industry minister also had department of technical education was with the department of industry. It is for the first time that a cabinet minister has been just given technical education and industrial training department that too when there are just seven ministers with cabinet rank,” sources in the government said. Channi, when contacted, said it was the CM’s prerogative to divide departments and he has no complaints.
Navjot Singh Sidhu wanted the department of urban development along with local government. “I have requested the CM that the two departments are under one minister at the centre and compliment each other. It should be the same in Punjab,” Sidhu told HT. The urban development department is presently with the CM.
Amarinder as CM has kept the department of vigilance with himself. He is facing two highprofile cases being invetigated by the vigilance department — the Amritsar Improvement Trust case and the Ludhiana City Centre scam — that came to haunt Captain’s government during his first tenure as CM (2002-07).
SCRAMBLE FOR RANKS IN CORE TEAM
Even the allotment of posts among Amarinder’s aides and core team could take place after a bitter tug-of-war over positions that come with pay and perks of a cabinet minister or minister of state, the appointment of Raveen Thukral as media adviser was made only after his former media adviser Bharat Inder Singh Chahal was rehabilitated as adviser to the CM. Both will hold minister of state ranks.
Between his three other aides — Captain Sandeep Sandhu, Major Amardeep and Karanpal Sekhon — it was decided to appoint Sandhu as political secretary and the other two as protocol secretaries, which did not go down well with them. Amarinder had to finally appoint all three as political secretaries.
Amarinder’s old friend, Lt Gen Tajinder Singh Shergill (retd), who also co-authored a book, ‘The Monsoon War’, with him has been appointed as senior adviser to CM with a cabinet rank. After MP Singh, another five were on Wednesday appointed as OSDs to Amarinder. And those raising questions over the spree of political appointments in the CM’s office are also those from his own party. “All the government’s first moves have been about symbolism, from low-key swearing-in ceremony to removing red beacons from cars of VIPs. The coterie was kept out of frame during elections but it is back with a bang in the CMO. The first casualty will once again be the CM’s accessibility, which proved to be his bane in his last term,” a Congress leader said on condition of anonymity.
It takes two to tango in the new Punjab cabinet
CABINET MINISTERS HAVE COURTED CONTROVERSY AFTER THEIR SPOUSES WERE SEEN ATTENDING TO OFFICIAL MATTERS
CHANDIGARH: There are many “better halves” in the cabinet of Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. And they are working in tandem within the government, for better or for worse.
On Monday, it was Navjot Singh Sidhu’s wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu, a former MLA who opted out of her Amritsar East seat for him, who courted a controversy by attending an official meeting of the local bodies department. She defended it saying that as a former legislator she knows civic problems and was just sitting and listening to officials while it was husband Sidhu who was chairing the meeting.
On Wednesday, it was minister of state Aruna Chaudhary who made headlines as a TV grab of her husband, Ashok Chaudhary, a former government officer and now Congress leader from Gurdaspur, perusing official files sitting next to the minister went viral. The only distinction in hierarchy was that the back of the minister’s chair was taller! Ashok Chaudhary later described it as ‘good couples do things together’.
Razia Sultana, also a minister of state with independent charge like Aruna, is anyway seen as a proxy of her husband Mohammad Mustafa, an officer of the rank of director general of police (DGP) known for his proximity to Amarinder.
Though Mustafa has not been seen in Razia’s public works department, according to Congress sources he had lobbied hard for getting the department for his wife. Mustafa was barred by the Election Commission from entering Sultana’s constituency, Malerkotla, during the elections.
As for the CM himself, Amarinder’s wife Preneet Kaur, who opted out of Patiala Urban for the husband but managed his entire campaign as he, as the Congress unit chief, campaigned across the state, is happy issuing specifications for the CM’s new official residence.
CAPT TO TELL ARUNA TO CHECK HUSBAND’S INTERFERENCE
CHANDIGARH: Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh said on Thursday he will talk to minister of state Aruna Chaudhary on her husband’s reported interference in her official functioning.
Aruna, who handles higher and school education in the newly constituted council of ministers, was in news after a picture of her husband, Ashok Chaudhary, a former government officer and, perusing official files sitting next to her in her office in the Punjab secretariat went viral.
In response to a question during a television interview, the chief minister agreed that such behaviour was not proper and could not be condoned.
Captain Amarinder said he will personally speak to Aruna and was confident the minister would be able to control any such interference in future.
Manpreet exhorts youth to shun drugs, help govt in nation-building
HUSSAINIWALA : Punjab finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal on Friday exhorted people, particular youths, to refrain from drugs and come forward to help the government in nation- building.
SANJEEV KUMAR/HTPunjab minister Manpreet Badal laying a wreath at the martyrs’ memorial in Hussainiwala on Thursday.
Manpreet was presiding over the state-level function to pay tributes to martyrs Shaheed-eAzam Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev on the 85th martyrdom day here, Manpreet reached Hussainiwala, 11 km from here, accompanied by local Congress MLAs Parminder Singh Pinki, Kulbir Singh Zira, Davinder Ghubaya and Satkar Kaur besides a battery of civil and police officials.
“There are challenges before Punjab and the country. These challenges can be met only if we work together, think together,” said Manpreet.
The finance minister announced a grant of ₹4 crore to further beautify the national memorial at Hussainiwala in response to a demand raised by Parminder Pinki.
“The government, led by chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh was committed to make the dreams of martyrs come true and put an end to corruption, unemployment, illiteracy and drugs,” said Manpreet, after paying floral tributes at the martyrs’ memorial.
He said that the state government would be organising a state-level function to commemorate Baisakhi at Jallianwala Bagh, Sri Amritsar Sahib on April 13.
“People of border districts have faced problems from the times of India’s struggle for freedom till today and the Punjab government was well aware of these problems,” he said.
He announced that industry will be set up in the border districts to provide means of livelihood and employment to the people here, which will also propel state’s economy.
Manpreet also honoured family members of the martyrs and freedom fighters.