Punjab: 2 more Congress MLAs resign from party posts

Punjab: 2 more Congress MLAs resign from party posts

CHANDIGARH: Two more Congress legislators resigned from their posts in the party’s Punjab unit today as resentment grew among MLAs for being denied a ministerial berth in an expansion of the state Cabinet.nnThe  Amarinder Singh government in Punjab on Saturday inducted nine new ministers in its cabinet.nnSurjit Singh Dhiman, the MLA from Amargarh in Sangrur district, and Nathu Ram from Balluana in Fazilka, tendered their resignations from party positions to Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Sunil Jakhar.nnThe resignation came just hours before the swearing in here of the nine new ministers, whose names were announced yesterday after a meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and Congress president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.nnAnother party legislator, Sangat Singh Gilzian, resigned yesterday from All India Congress Committee (AICC) and as a PPCC vice president over the issue.nnNathu Ram quit as PPCC general secretary, saying the party had ignored his Dalit community.nnSurjit Singh Dhiman’s resignation from the PPCC vice president’s post was announced by his son Jaswinder Dhiman. He is from the backward classes and said they were “ignored”.nn”Dalits are feeling humiliated by being denied a ministerial slot in the cabinet expansion,” Nathu Ram said.nn”Dalits account for 34 per cent of Punjab population and if we are to consider this percentage, at least five ministers should be Dalits in the cabinet,” he said.nnJaswinder Singh Dhiman said “not a single minister” belonged to backward classes.nn”Out of the backward class population in the state, 14 per cent belong to Ramgarhia community. At least one person belonging the to backward community should have been given the post,” he said.nnThe Chief Minister, however, denied any “unfairness” in the selection of the new ministers.nnAmarinder Singh said adequate representation had been given to all sections and regions, with seniority being the key criteria.nn”There were no swollen faces in the party, as the media chose to call them,” he said while responding to questions from journalists in an informal chat after the swearing-in ceremony at the Raj Bhavan here.nnHe said the focus had been on striking a regional and caste balance to ensure the holistic development of the state.nnBesides the resignations, two other Congress MLAs today expressed disappointment over the Cabinet expansion.nnKhanna MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli, who is the grandson of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, said “old and traditional” families that have won elections for the party should have been considered for Cabinet berths.nn”I meet all the criteria for becoming a minister but a junior person has been inducted. I fought three elections and won twice,” said Navtej Singh Cheema, the MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district.nnCheema said he was disappointed that the Doaba region was “ignored.”nn”Only one ministerial berth has been given to Doaba (Sunder Shan Arora) and that too represents the Kandi area. The main Doaba region comprising Jalandhar and Kapurthala, which is known as the NRI belt, is completely ignored,” Cheema said.nn”Whenever Congress won seats from the Doaba region, it formed the government,” he said.nnHe said the party picked three ministers from one district but had ignored Doaba.nnWith the induction of Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa in the Cabinet, Gurdaspur district now has three ministers.nnTript Rajinder Singh Bajwa (Fatehgarh Churian) and Aruna Chaudhary (Dinanagar) already represented the district in the ministry.nnAmritsar also has three ministers now with the induction of O P Soni (Amritsar Central) and Sukhbinder Sarkaria (Raja Sansi). Navjot Singh Sidhu from Amritsar East was already a minister.nnCheema said he could not understand why his name was “dropped at the last moment” and will take up the matter with the Chief Minister.nnMeanwhile, Kotli argued in favour of Punjab’s “traditional” families.nn”Old and traditional families that have been winning continuously and worked hard for the party should have also been considered,” he said.nnKotli’s grandfather Beant Singh was chief minister and his father Tej Partap Singh was a minister in previous Congress government.nnLater, the Chief Minister told reporters that with four Dalit ministers already in the Cabinet, more members from the community could not have been accommodated.nnHe assured that all Congress MLAs who had not found a place in the ministry will be inducted into the various boards and corporations.nnThe portfolios for the minister were announced late in the evening.nnThe new ministers include Om Prakash Soni (school education and freedom fighters department), Bharat Bhushan Ashu (food and civil supplies, and consumer affairs), Rana Gurmit Sodhi (sports and youth affairs), Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa(cooperation and jails), Gurpreet Singh Kangar(power and new and renewable energy sources), Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria(revenue, rehabilitation and disaster management, water resources, mines and geology), Balbir Singh Sidhu (animal husbandry, dairy development and labour), Vijay Inder Singla (PWD and information technology) and Sunder Shyam Arora (industries and commerce), accoridng to ToI report.nnExisting ministers of state Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana were administered oath as cabinet ministers. There has been reshuffle in their portfolios.nnChaudhary has now been given social security, women and child development and transport departments. Sultana has now been handed over higher education, water supply and sanitation (public health) departments.nnAs expected, the departments of other old ministers have not been changed. The chief minister has kept the agriculture department with himself along with other departments which have not been allotted to any minister.nnNew sports minister Sodhi is five-time national champion in trap shooting. He also participated in the 1978 Asian Games in Bangkok and 1978 Commonwealth Games in Montreal.nnWith Press Trust of India inputs

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