Sunday, March 9, 2003, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Punjab Cabinet expansion on Monday
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, March 8
The Punjab Council of Ministers will be expanded on March 10. Informed sources said the Congress High Command had cleared the list of MLAs to be inducted as ministers by the Chief Minister, Capt Amarinder Singh. Portfolios of certain ministers are also expected to be changed.

A list of those to be sworn in as ministers is expected to be sent to the Governor tomorrow. The Punjab Governor is scheduled to leave for Delhi in the afternoon on March 10. Therefore, it is expected that the oath ceremony will be held around 11 a.m., according to the sources.

Though the exact number of those to be inducted as ministers is not available, it is likely from the ongoing lobbying at the party high command level that the number of new ministers may be around 10.

Capt Amarinder Singh is in Delhi since yesterday. He will be back tomorrow morning. He reportedly met to Mrs Mohsina Kidwai, general secretary of the Congress and in charge of party affairs of Punjab, today to discuss the names of those to be inducted as ministers. Earlier, a few days ago, Capt Amarinder Singh and Mr H.S. Hanspal, President of the Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee, had met Mrs Sonia Gandhi to get a formal approval from her for Cabinet expansion.

Those expected to get ministerial berths are Mr Joginder Singh Mann, Mr Harnam Dass Johar, Mr Birdevinder Singh, Mr Kanwaljit Singh, Mr Tirpat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Mr Hans Raj Joshan, Mr Malkiat Singh Dakha and Mr Malkiat Singh Birmi. All these have been elected to the Punjab Assembly at least twice. Whether Mr Raj Khurana and Mr Amrik Singh Dhillon will also be inducted is not yet clear. Mr Raj Khurana is a strong supporter of Mrs Rajinder Kaur Bhattal. The sources said Mrs Bhattal had met the party high command yesterday in Delhi. She has reportedly stressed on the point that a criteria should be framed for selecting MLAs for induction in the Council of Ministers. It is not clear whether she pressed on the high command to include the name of Mr Raj Khurana in the list of new ministers.

However, it is a known fact that earlier when a strong faction of the party vehemently opposed giving of a party ticket to Mr Khurana to contest the Assembly election from Rajpura, Mrs Bhattal got him the ticket by making it clear to Mrs Gandhi that she would also not contest in case the party denied nomination to Mr Khurana, who later won the election with an impressive margin.

Meanwhile, a senior officer of the State Transport Department said there was no official communication as yet from the authorities concerned to keep the cars ready for new ministers. However, in the light of reports appearing in newspapers with regard to the expansion, a number of cars have been kept ready for the new ministers, he added.

As lobbying was still on, there could be some additions or deletions of names from the list approved by the party high command, the sources said.

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