Friday, July 5, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Amarinder meets Sonia
Favours Cabinet expansion
Prashant Sood
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 4
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today met Congress President Sonia Gandhi regarding the expansion of his Cabinet and appointment of PCC chief in the state but the high command has not yet given a go-ahead for the reshuffle.

Sources said the high command was giving greater priority to the appointment of the PCC chief to augment party work.

The Chief Minister met Ms Mohsina Kidwai, General Secretary in charge of Punjab, in the afternoon after which he met AICC treasurer Motilal Vora. He called on Mrs Gandhi in the evening and suggested some names for the post of PCC chief. The talks on the Cabinet expansion were “preliminary.”

While the Chief Minister is keen on Cabinet expansion, the high command is apparently not very enthusiastic. “It will be done only if the Chief Minister insists. He is the final judge,” a senior AICC leader said.

There is a growing feeling in the high-command that the expansion of Cabinet could be deferred as the state had recently passed a Budget which had stressed on austerity.

Talking to The Tribune before his meeting with Mrs Gandhi, Capt Amarinder Singh said 23 ministers were looking after 43 departments in the state. He said at the time of the swearing-in of his government, it was decided to consider Cabinet expansion after three months.

The Chief Minister indicated that “seniority” would be the main criterion. Apart from two MLAs who had been Assembly members thrice, there were 10 others who had been Assembly members twice. A member of the minority community might also be considered for a berth in the ministry.

The sources said among the names being considered for the post of PCC chief were Mr Virender Kataria, Mr H.S. Hanspal, Mr Shamsher Singh Dullo and Mr Gurmel Singh.

Meanwhile, Capt Amarinder Singh today called on Finance Minister Jaswant Singh and apprised him of the fiscal reforms undertaken by the state government recently in its Budget for 2002-03 to revive the economy of the state. He also called on the External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha to talk of the problems faced by NRIs from Punjab.

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