CHANDIGARH: Fissures in the Congress in Punjab deepened on Thursday with Chief Minister Amarinder Singh changing Navjot Singh Sidhu's portfolio within hours of the cricketer-turned-politician snubbing him by skipping a cabinet meeting and choosing to do a Facebook Live session with the media instead.
Hours after the first State Cabinet meeting following the Lok Sabha election results, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Thursday evening rejigged the portfolios of several senior ministers. Navjot Singh Sidhu was divested of his Local Bodies, Tourism and Culture portfolios, and will now handle Power and New and Renewable Energy.
Today's fast-paced developments came amidst the simmering tension between Singh and Sidhu which was triggered by the chief minister's allegations that the minister's "inept handling" of the crucial Local Government department had resulted in the Congress' "poor performance" in urban areas in the Lok Sabha elections.
Asserting that he cannot be taken for granted, Sidhu told reporters today that his department "is being singled out publicly" and claimed that urban areas had played a pivotal role in the party's victory in Punjab.
Barring four ministers, all the others have now got new portfolios. The Chief Minister believed that the reallocations would help to further streamline the government systems and processes, and bring more transparency and efficiency in the various departments.
With the Congress government in the state nearing the mid-term mark, Captain Amarinder hoped the
exercise would also re-energise his team and bring a freshness into the working of the major departments.
The Chief Minister, who had hinted at changes in the portfolios of his Council of Ministers after the completion of the poll process, has allocated the crucial Local Government portfolio, to his senior-most colleague, Brahm Mohindra, who was earlier handling Health & Family Welfare, which has now been entrusted to Balbir Sidhu.
Local Government was earlier with Navjot Singh Sidhu, who now gets Power and New &
Renewable Energy Sources. His other previous portfolios of Tourism and Cultural Affairs goes to Charanjit Singh Channi, who retains Technical Education, Industrial Training & Employment General, with his Science and Technology portfolio taken over by the Chief Minister.
Balbir Sidhu’s portfolio of Animal Husbandry, Fisheries and Dairy has been entrusted, under the new scheme of things, to Tript Bajwa, along with Higher Education. Bajwa also retains Rural Development and Panchayats. Bajwa has been given Higher Education and Animal Husbandry because the government intends to give greater priority to these sectors.
However, Bajwa has been divested of Housing and Urban Development, which the Chief Minister has handed over to Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, in place of Revenue, which goes to Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who is also handling Rehabilitation & Disaster Management.
Manpreet Singh Badal will continue to take care of Finance, Planning and Programme Implementation but the Chief Minister has decided to take Governance Reforms into his own fold. School Education has been shifted from Om Prakash Soni to Vijay Inder Singla, who retains Public Works but hands over Information Technology to Captain Amarinder.
Soni will now take care of Medical Education & Research, Freedom Fighters and Food Processing departments.
In addition to Sports & Youth Affairs, Rana Gurmeet Sodhi will now also be in charge of NRI Affairs, which was under the Chief Minister’s purview earlier.
Transport has been moved from Aruna Chowdhary’s basket and handed over to Razia Sultana, who will continue to handle Water Supply, but has been divested of Higher Education. Aruna Chowdhary takes over the Social Security, Women & Child Development departments.
Ministers Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (Forests, Printing and Stationery, SC/BC Welfare), Sukhjinder Singh
Randhawa (Cooperation, Jails), Sunder Sham Arora (Industries & Commerce), and Bharat
Bhushan Ashu (Food and Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs), have no changes in their portfolios.
(With inputs from PTI and online desk)