CHANDIGARH: The first Cabinet expansion in the Captain Amarinder Singh-led Congress government in Punjab is expected any time now. While the Chief Minister had last month announced that he would go in for the reshuffle after December 18, speculations are rife that it will be done after the state Budget Session, which is likely to be held in March.
Currently, there are 10 members in the state Cabinet including the CM. According to sources, eight more berths are likely to be added. Since Amarinder is expected to keep in mind the caste equations, besides other factors such as representation from across all regions in the state, before filling these slots, hectic lobbying is on.
It is learnt that two more Jat Sikhs will be included in the Cabinet. Those in the race for these seats are Amrik Singh Dhillon, the five-time MLA from Samrala; Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, three-time MLA from Rajasansi, and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, three-time MLA from Dera Baba Nanak. Randhawa had been spearheading a campaign, leading 40 MLAs, for action against former revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia, who was mired in allegations of drug-peddling. Randeep Singh Nabha from Amloh and Balbir Singh Sidhu from Mohali are also in fray.
Trying to fill in for the young brigade are Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s protégés in Punjab — Indian Youth Congress President Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, MLA from Sangrur Vijay Inder Singla, and Fatehgarh Sahib MLA Kuljit Singh Nagra.
Two from the Hindu community are likely to be included. Rakesh Pandey, the Ludhiana (North) MLA; Bharat Bhushan Ashu, Ludhiana (West) MLA; Om Prakash Soni from Amritsar (Central) and Surinder Kumar Dawar, Ludhiana (Central) MLA, are vying for these berths.
Among other probables are Raj Kumar Verka from Amritsar (West), Surjit Singh Dhiman from Amargarh, Sangat Singh Gilzian from Urmar. Amarinder may also ensure that his confidant Rana Gurmeet Singh Sodhi, Guruharsahai MLA, is in.
Ruling out the appointment of a deputy chief minister, Amarinder asserted that the party has no such convention.
Keeping in view the 2019 general elections, the Congress high command is unwilling to take risks. It has sought dossiers on all the nine sitting ministers, performance assessment.
It is speculated that cricketer-turned-minister Navjot Singh Sidhu might lose his Local Bodies portfolio. The performance of Health Minister Brahm Mohindra, Education Minister Aruna Chaudhary and Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi is also under the scanner, it is learnt.
Another Cabinet member in the dock is Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, against whom complaints were raised over sand-mining scam and money-laundering. The party is of the opinion that he has to prove himself in order to stay, sources said.