File photo of Captain Amarinder Singh with cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Chandigarh: Hours after the first state cabinet meeting following the Lok Sabha elections, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday evening rejigged the portfolios of most ministers, including Navjot Singh Sidhu, to make some vital changes in the key ministries.
Singh stripped his cabinet colleague Sidhu of his local bodies portfolio, hours after the outspoken cricketer-turned-politician skipped a cabinet meeting and gave statements against the chief minister. The reallocation will bring in “freshness and efficacy”, said Singh.
Sharing the revised list of portfolios of my Cabinet colleagues after a minor reshuffle. Wish them all the best of luck as they take up their new assignments. I am confident that each decision they take will be in service to the people of Punjab. pic.twitter.com/D21PfTbtsA— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) June 6, 2019
Singh, who had hinted at changes in the portfolios of his council of ministers after the completion of the poll process, had recently said he intended to change the cricketer-turned-politician’s portfolio, blaming his inept handling of the department for the Congress performance in the urban areas.
But Sidhu said 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.
“I always regard him (Singh) as my elder I always listen to him. But it hurts and now where is the collective responsibility? He could have called me and said anything he wanted to say.But I was singled out in spite of collective responsibility,” Sidhu said.
“I cannot be taken for granted. I have been a performer throughout in 40 years of my life be it international cricket, or world class commentary with Geoffrey Boycott, TV shows or 1,300 motivational talks,” said Sidhu, adding he would defend his name, credibility and performance “fiercely”.
New portfolios in state
Amarinder Singh, who changed the portfolios of most of his ministers, said this will help further streamline the government and bring more transparency and efficiency in the functioning of departments. With the Congress government in the state nearing its mid-term mark, he hoped that the exercise will re-energise his team and bring freshness into the working of major departments.
Singh has allocated the crucial local government portfolio to his senior-most colleague, Brahm Mohindra. Mohindra was earlier handling health and family welfare, which has now been entrusted to Balbir Sidhu.
While the Congress had suffered a humiliating defeat in the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, Punjab was one of the few states where it emerged victorious.
Sidhu now gets Power and New & Renewable Energy Sources ministries. 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 also been given Higher Education and Animal Husbandry.
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 ministry has been shifted from Om Prakash Soni to Vijay Inder Singla, who retains Public Works but hands over Information Technology to Captain.
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 fold 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 & Child Development departments.
The four ministers in whose portfolios no changes have been made are Sadhu Singh Dharamsot (Forests, Printing & Stationery, SC/BC Welfare), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa (Cooperation, Jails), Sunder Sham Arora (Industries & Commerce), and Bharat Bhushan Ashu (Food & Civil Supplies, Consumer Affairs).
‘It is a collective responsibility’
Navjot Singh Sidhu on Thursday also defended his decision to skip the cabinet meeting.
“Everybody is asking me why I did not go to the cabinet meeting. Oath is administered when you become a cabinet minister, then it is said that it is a collective responsibility,” he said. “I have been a political science student and it is taught that the rule is ‘we swim and we sink together’.”
Referring to past cabinet meetings, Sidhu said his chair in these meetings may be “three inches” away from that of the chief minister’s, “but it seems I am too far from him and he (Singh) lacks faith in me”.
Commenting on Sidhu’s absence, Punjab minister Sadhu Singh Dharmsot said he should have been in attendance.
“I am not Sidhu’s assistant. I am not responsible if he does not attend the meeting. If he was having a parallel (press) meeting then it is indiscipline,” said another minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, referring to a Facebook Live stream addressed by Sidhu.
(With inputs from PTI)