Expansion set to take place before April 27 at the Punjab Raj Bhawan; preparations on
DW Bureau / Chandigarh
the Punjab Council of Ministers is all set to expand on or before April 27. The Congress high command is slated to finalise the list of candidates in a meeting between Congress president Rahul Gandhi and State Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh fixed for April 19.
Party sources said that the discussion to induct nine new faces in the Capt Amarinder Singh’s Cabinet was in the final stages and the expansion would take place within days of the upcoming meeting.
Sources informed Daily World on Monday that while seniority of the MLAs will largely be the criteria for the induction of the nine ministers in the State Council of Ministers, the party is also working on a formula to strike a fine balance between caste, community and region for finalising the list of ministers. “The Chief Minister will always like seniority to be given priority in finalising the list but some of the young MLAs are also likely to be inducted in the expanded Cabinet,” the sources added. The State Council of Ministers presently has nine ministers, including Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh even as Rana Gurjit Singh has resigned from the State Cabinet following a series of controversies.
Among the MLAs who are strong contenders for the ministerial berths include: six-time MLA Rakesh Pandey (Ludhiana North); four-time MLA Amrik Singh Dhillon (Samrala); Randeep Singh Nabha (Amloh); Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi (Guru Harsahai) and a confidant of Capt Amarinder; Raj Kumar Verka (Amritsar West). Senior Congress leader and an MLA from Amritsar Central OP Soni is also a strong contender even though some cases are pending against him in different courts.
Sources said that MLAs belonging to the Hindu community such as Bharat Bhushan Ashu (Ludhiana West) and Vijay Inder Singla (Sangrur) too have a strong chance of making it to the State Council of Ministers. Of the four berths for the ministers from the non-Jat Sikh (Hindu Community) in the State Cabinet, only one has been filled so far.
Some other hopefuls whose names are likely to be considered for induction in the Capt Amarinder’s government, include two-time MLA Amarinder Singh Raja Warring (Gidderbaha), Gurpreet Singh Kangar (Rampura Phul) and Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt).
Sources said that those who have been MLAs for three times or less may be appointed as Ministers of State, while those who have been MLAs for four times or more will be made Cabinet Ministers.
Chamkaur Sahib MLA Charanjit Singh Channi was the only exception, who was made a Cabinet minister in Capt Amarinder’s government even though he has been an MLA only thrice. Since he was the Leader of Opposition (which is of the rank of a Cabinet Minister) during the previous Badal regime, the party had decided to appoint him as a Cabinet Minister.
It may be mentioned that three-time MLAs from Dina Nagar and Malerkotla respectively, Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana were only made Ministers of State following this criteria fixed by the Congress.