As the war between the two intensified, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday effected a reshuffle of his ministry and stripped Navjot Singh Sidhu of the portfolios of Local Government and Tourism and Culture from him and gave him Power and New and Renewable Energy ministry.
The decision was taken by the Chief Minister after Sidhu skipped a Cabinet Meeting and launched a veiled attack on Singh by saying he has been singled out publicly for his ministry’s alleged failure that led to Congress losses in urban areas and that he could not be taken for granted.
Singh and Sidhu have been at loggerheads since his controversial visit to Pakistan for the swearing in ceremony of Imran Khan where he had hugged the Army Chief that led to a huge controversy in India. It fuelled further during the elections when Siddhu and his wife accused the chief minister of having had a hand in the denial of ticket to her to contest the Lok Sabha elections from either Chandigarh or Amritsar.
“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 to his senior-most colleague, Brahm Mohindra, who was earlier handling Health and Family Welfare, which has now been entrusted to Balbir Sidhu,” an official released said.
“Local Government was earlier with Navjot Singh Sidhu, who now gets Power and New and Renewable Energy Sources. His other previous portfolios of Tourism and Cultural Affairs go to Charanjit Singh Channi, who retains Technical Education, Industrial Training and Employment General, with his Science and Technology portfolio taken over by the Chief Minister,” it stated.
Earlier in the day, Sidhu who did not attend the Cabinet Meeting said his department has been singled out and that he cannot be taken for granted.
“We swim and we sink together… It is a collective responsibility. My department has been singled out publicly. One must have the ability to see things from the right perspective. I cannot be taken for granted. I have been a performer throughout. I am answerable to the people of Punjab,” he said.
In Punjab, Congress won eight parliamentary seats out of 13 while, four seats went to BJP-Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) alliance while AAP bagged a seat- Sangrur.
Amarinder hoped the exercise would also re-energise his team and bring freshness into the working of the major departments.
“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,” the release said.
“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 and Disaster Management,” it said.
The Chief Minister has taken Governance Reforms and Information Technology in the Cabinet reshuffle.
“Manpreet Singh Badal continues 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,” the release read.
Soni will now take care of Medical Education and Research, Freedom Fighters and Food Processing departments.
“In addition to Sports and 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 Sultan, who retains Water Supply but has been divested of Higher Education. Aruna Chowdhary takes over the Social Security, Women and Child Development departments,” the release further said.