DW Bureau / Chandigarh
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh is all set to carry out the expansion of his Cabinet in the first week of June — a few days before the next State Assembly session, and induct eight new faces in the State Council of Ministers.
Sources said while seniority of the MLAs will largely be the criteria for the induction of the nine ministers in the Capt AmarinderÔÇÖs Cabinet, the party is now working on a formula to strike a fine balance between caste, community and region for finalising the ministersÔÇÖ list. The party will also keep in mind the seniority of the MLAs as well as the youth factor, they said. The State Council of Ministers already has 10 ministers, including Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
Among the MLAs who are strong contenders for the ministersÔÇÖ posts include: Rakesh Pandey (Ludhiana North); Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi (Guru Harsahai) and a confidant of Capt Amarinder; Raj Kumar Verka (Amritsar West) and Ajaib Singh Bhatti (Malout). Senior Congress leader and an MLA from Amritsar Central, O P Soni is also in the race but his chances of becoming a minister are not bright since there are three criminal cases pending against him.
According to sources, the party is also considering three MLAs belonging to the Hindu community — Sunder Sham Arora (Hoshiapur), Bharat Bhushan Ashu (Ludhiana West) and Vijay Inder Singla (Sangrur) for the appointment as a minister in the State Cabinet. 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 who are lobbying hard for a berth in the Capt AmarinderÔÇÖs government, include two-time MLA, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring (Gidderbaha), Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria (Raja Sansi), Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cant), Balbir Singh Sidhu (Mohali) and Sangat Singh Gilzian (Urmar).
Sources said Capt Amarinder would also be inducting a minister from the Majhabi Sikh community and one minister from the OBC community since there no minister from the OBC community in the state Cabinet.
Sources said that those who have been MLAs for three times or less will be appointed as Ministers of State, while those who have been MLAs for four times or more will be made the Cabinet Ministers. Chamkaur Sahib MLA Charanjit Singh Channi was the only exception, who was appointed as a Cabinet minister in Capt AmarinderÔÇÖs government even though he has been an MLA only thrice. ÔÇ£Since he was the Leader of Opposition during the previous Badal regime ÔÇô which is of the rank of a Cabinet Minister, the party decided to appoint him as a Cabinet Minister,ÔÇØ a top party functionary informed Daily World on Sunday. 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 due to this criteria fixed by the Congress.
The party will be doing a balancing act while appointing Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) office bearers too and thus, is likely to have the Senior Vice President from the Scheduled Caste (SC) category. Jalandhar MP Santokh Singh Chaudhary has emerged as a strong contender for the post of the PPCC Vice President, the sources added.
Parliamentary SecretariesÔÇÖ appointment too on cards
The Capt Amarinder Government is all set to appoint about 20 parliamentary secretaries within 8-10 days of the expansion of the State Council of Ministers, it is learnt. Sources said that each minister in the AmarinderÔÇÖs Cabinet will be assisted by one parliamentary secretary in disposal for his legislative and parliamentary businesses. ÔÇ£The government is already working on the probables for the appointment of parliamentary secretaries. But it has still not finalised the names,ÔÇØ a source informed.