Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with his cabinet colleagues | Twitter
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh with his cabinet colleagues | Twitter
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The Punjab CM has also had to deal with Congressmen annoyed at being ignored during cabinet expansion, and unhappiness over shrinking Dalit representation

Chandigarh: The summers have never been kind to Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh. The scion of the Patiala royal family rushes to cooler climes to escape the rising mercury but every time he packs his bags to climb the mountains, his party-men turn the heat on him.

This summer has been no exception, with Amarinder battling disgruntled party-men, rebuffing his colleagues and having to contend with a wayward senior minister with little regard for the chief minister’s wishes.

Bittu gets a mouthful

On Tuesday, Amarinder rebuked Congress MP from Ludhiana, Ravneet Bittu, for suggesting that Aam Aadmi Party MP Bhagwant Mann should be brought into the Congress fold before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Bittu told a newspaper Monday that Mann was a “force multiplier”, and that his entry into the Congress would greatly benefit the party. A peeved CM reacted sharply, issuing a press statement saying he was “surprised” that Bittu would say such a thing.

“It is the prerogative of the party high command to take any decision on the induction of leaders from other parties into the Congress fold,” said Amarinder, adding that no party MP, MLA or other leaders should come out with public statements in this regard.

“If they have any opinion on any such matter, they should share their suggestions in party forums,” he said.

Warring on a war-path

The solid rebuff from the chief minister, it seems, was not just meant for Bittu. Former national Youth Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, now an MLA from Gidderbaha, has been licking his wounds ever since he was “ignored” during the cabinet expansion in April. He was later also replaced as the Youth Congress president.

On Tuesday, Warring questioned the criteria being adopted by the party’s state unit to appoint chairmen to various boards and corporations, from among disgruntled party-men.

Warring tweeted: “First natural claimants of the posts like Chairmanship etc are those party workers who worked hard & tirelessly during Punjab State Election without contesting. I humbly request @capt_amarinder ji & @suniljakhar ji to fulfill what @RahulGandhi ji promised during elections.”

Warring was advocating the cause of leaders who were not given tickets during the elections and instead promised positions as heads of boards and corporations.

However, with 77 victorious MLAs in the 117-member assembly, the Congress is facing a problem of plenty. The party is now trying to assuage the MLAs who were not given cabinet berths by giving them the posts earlier promised to party-men who were denied tickets.

Navjot Sidhu: The eternal rebel

Cabinet minister Navjot Sidhu has been doing his own thing, with little care or regard for the chief minister’s wishes. Last month, Sidhu, as a member of the cabinet sub-committee on illegal mining, presented a report to the chief minister without the consent of the other members. The two other members of the sub-committee — Manpreet Singh Badal and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa — were clueless.

In a subsequent cabinet meeting, Badal and Bajwa distanced themselves from Sidhu’s report. It was then decided that Sidhu’s report would be treated as his “individual input”.

During a cabinet meeting held early this month, Sidhu was “attacked” by health minister Brahm Mohindra over a raid at the Patiala mayor’s home. No other minister apparently came in support of Sidhu.

In January, Sidhu had expressed his unhappiness with the party for not consulting him during the process of selecting the Amritsar mayor. A sullen Sidhu had then told the media that despite his being the local bodies minister, he was not being consulted in the process to select the mayors of Jalandhar, Patiala and Amritsar. When Amritsar Congress district president Jugal Kishore Sharma and cabinet minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa tried to meet Sidhu, he refused to see them.

Dalit minister miffed

Cabinet minister Charanjit Singh Channi has been openly espousing the cause of the Dalit MLAs and partymen, who he claims have been ignored by the chief minister. Following the cabinet expansion, when it was felt that Dalit representation in the cabinet had shrunk, Channi led several Dalit MLAs to meet Rahul Gandhi. The MLAs have also been holding meetings at Channi’s house.

Last month, Channi had questioned his government over the appointment of 28 law officers, which included no Dalits. He had sought reservation for Dalits in the Punjab Law Officers (Engagement) Act, 2017. He had earlier pointed out that in the first set of 121 law officers, only five were Dalits.

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