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Ministers skip office in Chief Minister’s absence
Jangveer Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, July 28
When the cat’s away, the mice will play. This appeared to be the case of the Punjab council of ministers with none of them present at the state secretariat here during the absence of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. The latter has not attended office for quite some time as he was occupied by the bypoll in the Jalalabad assembly constituency from where his son, SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal, is contesting. Byelections are also being held in Banur and Kahnuwan.

While a number of ministers have been entrusted with election duties due to which they are unable to come to the state secretariat, many others who are not active in campaigning are also keeping away from office.

“Aithe te kaan bol rahe ne”, remarked Ujjaggar Singh of Baran village in Patiala district, who had come to meet a minister. “I have been told to go to Jalalabad to meet him in case I wanted him to attend to my case immediately,” he said, adding he did not know whether it would be of any use to do so.

Others like Jagsir Singh and Rulda Singh said. “Leave alone ministers, even officials aren’t attending their duties at the secretariat. We understand three byelections are coming up, but at least civil servants can be asked to attend office,” they added.

Meanwhile, inquiries at the offices of various ministers threw up interesting responses. The secretarial staff of Janmeja Singh Sekhon, Gulzar Singh Ranike, Choudhary Swarna Ram, Suchha Singh Langah, Ajit Singh Kohar, Parminder Singh Dhindsa and Heera Singh Gabria said the ministers would attend work only after August 3 after the bypolls were held.

Members of Dhindsa’s staff said the minister was “on election duty,” Ranike was said to be in Jalalabad as was Sekhon, Kohar and Gabria. Langah was said to be in Kahnuwan. Upinderjit Kaur’s staff could only say with certainty she would not be coming to office tomorrow, as was the case with Mohan Lal and Laxmi Kanta Chawla.

There was, however, hope that some ministers may drop in tomorrow. Manoranjan Kalia had come yesterday. Manpreet Badal’s staff member when asked whether the minister would come tomorrow said “umeed hai”. Same was the case with Adesh Partap Kairon who is in town. Ranjit Singh Brahmpura’s staff member said his boss was in Amritsar and “we will only come to know about his schedule today evening”. Tikshan Sud’s men were the only ones certain their boss would attend office tomorrow.

Meanwhile, it is not the state Secretariat alone that is virtually empty. Officers seem to have deserted the mini secretariat also where few officers were found working today. Even secretaries holding important charges seem to be taking it easy. Staff members of a few secretaries said they were on “tour,” but to where was not made clear. With too many officers “on tour” or simply missing from office, governance seems to be low on the priority of the ruling coalition in the state.

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