CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi carried out his first cabinet expansion on Sunday, inducting 15 Cabinet Ministers which included seven new entrants, as the Congress gears up to face assembly elections that are barely five months away.
The new faces in the Channi Ministry are Randeep Singh Nabha, Raj Kumar Verka, Sangat Singh Gilzian, Pargat Singh, Amarinder Singh Raja Warring and Gurkirat Singh Kotli.
Rana Gurjit Singh has made a comeback after resigning in 2018 from the Amrinder Singh Ministry.
Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit administered the oath of office and secrecy to the legislators.
Brahm Mohindra, Manpreet Singh Badal, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Aruna Chaudhary, Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, Razia Sultana, Vijay Inder Singla and Bharat Bhushan Ashu, who were ministers in the previous Amarinder Singh led cabinet, were retained as Cabinet Ministers.
Channi was handpicked as Punjab's first Dalit chief minister following the unceremonious exit of Congress veteran Amarinder Singh after a prolonged power tussle with state Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Ministers Rana Gurjit Singh, Mohindra and Singla are considered close to Amarinder Singh.
However, the discontent in the faction-ridden party appeared to be far from over.
Rana Gurmit Singh Sodhi, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, Balbir Singh Sidhu, Gurpreet Singh Kangar and Sunder Sham Arora, who were ministers in the Amarinder Singh-led cabinet, did not find a place in the new ministry.
Hours before the ceremony, Balbir Singh Sidhu and Gurpreet Singh Kangar held a joint news conference where they questioned the decision to drop them.
Balbir Sidhu even broke down while asking "What is my fault?" while Kangar too posed the same question.
State Congress in-charge Harish Rawat said that those who could not find a place in the ministry will be accommodated in the government set-up and organisation.
He said the exercise has been done to bring in young faces and strike a social and regional balance.
Channi's two deputies Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa and OP Soni were sworn in on Monday.
The total allowed strength of the Cabinet- 18- has been reached.
Earlier, a section of Congress leaders from the state had written to the party's state unit chief Navjot Singh Sidhu against the induction of former minister Rana Gurjit Singh, alleging he was "corrupt and tainted".
The leaders had also demanded that the cabinet berth may instead be filled up "by giving representation to a clean Dalit leader".
A copy of the letter was also sent to the chief minister.
Rana Gurjit Singh, after facing flak from the Opposition over allegations of impropriety in the auction of sand mining contracts, had to resign from the previous Amarinder Singh cabinet in 2018.
At that time, he had held Irrigation and Power portfolios.