Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, September 10
Following in the footsteps of the previous SAD-BJP government, the Congress government seems to have circumvented the Constitutional cap on the number of ministers, while appointing six MLAs as advisers to the Chief Minister, five in the rank and status of Cabinet Minister and one in the rank and status of Minister of State.
As per rules, there can be 18 Cabinet Ministers, including the CM, as the total strength of the state Assembly seats is 117. As per rule, the number should not exceed 15 per cent of the total strength of the Legislative Assembly.
“While the state has 17 ministers, Cabinet rank has been given to six MLAs, besides one MLA enjoying the Minister of State rank. Amritsar (East) MLA-cum-Chairman, Punjab Warehousing Corporation Raj Kumar Verka was also given Cabinet rank recently. This takes the total count to 24,” pointed out a senior government functionary.
By amending the Punjab State Legislature (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1952, which prohibits elected representatives from holding the office of profit, last year, the government had paved for the appointment of MLAs in the office of profit.
After the appointing the advisers to the CM, the government could appoint more MLAs as legislative secretaries or advisers to ministers. Wary of legal complication over their appointments, the MLAs assumed their charge as advisers last evening.
Meanwhile, the appointment has led to discontentment among left out Congress leaders. The strategic move by the CM to placate some of the MLAs might pay off for the time being, but it has led to a split among other MLAs, who had sworn by the name of God to stay together on the issue of sacrilege and inaction against the Badals.
Questioning the appointments, a senior party MLA said doling out political posts would not help the party.
“Those who courageously spoke against the mushrooming transport business of the Badals in Punjab and the CBI closure report on Bargari have now lost the moral ground to question the government. They won’t be able to blame bureaucracy for everything,” said an MLA from Jalandhar.
Not agreeing to the contention, Warring said, “We would be in a better position to explain things to the CM.”
Rajya Sabha MP Partap Bajwa said placating the MLAs clearly showed panic reaction in the government. “They have been given the Cabinet rank, but no work. It will put financial burden on the government,” he said.
Coming in support of the MLAs who have been demanding action against the Badals in the sacrilege cases, Bajwa said more than two years of the Congress government had gone. “The Chief Minister needs to give an explanation on the letter written by SIT chief Pramod Kumar to the CBI. The CM should tell whether the letter to CBI was written on his instructions or Kumar acted on his own?” said Bajwa.
Advisers are entitled to
Pay and allowances as given to Cabinet Ministers; residential accommodation; secretariat staff and an OSD; telephone expenses; supporting staff at residence
3 of them won’t claim perks
Newly appointed advisers Kuljit Singh Nagra, Amrinder Singh Raja Warring and Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon on Tuesday said they won’t claim additional salary, perks or allowances enjoyed by a Cabinet Minister and would only take the pay and perks as MLAs. “There will be no extra financial burden on the state government,” they said.
They can’t use National Emblem
The advisers are, however, not entitled to use the National Emblem on number plate of their vehicles. Only those ministers who hold constitutional post are entitled to use it.
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