Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, July 3
Five new ministers, including a woman, will be inducted into the Punjab Cabinet tomorrow, in what will be the first expansion of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government after it stormed to power over three months ago.
18 berths in Punjab Cabinet, including CM’s post
3 vacant even if 5 new faces are inducted during the July 4 expansion
Though the party initially released the names of three would-be-ministers, including Fauja Singh Sarari (Guruharsahai), Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar (Amritsar South) and Anmol Gagan Maan (Kharar), the confirmation on the induction of Chetan Singh Jouramajra (Samana) and Aman Arora (Sunam) came late in the evening. Three of the MLAs confirmed to The Tribune about being sounded on Friday by Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann regarding their inclusion in the Cabinet. Sources said caste, gender, religion and regional considerations had been taken care of while selecting the new ministers. Of the five new faces, four are from the Malwa region and one from Majha. Bhagwant Mann is learnt to have finalised the names during a meeting with AAP national convener and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal on Friday.
Sarari, a retired cop, has been chosen because he belongs to the Rai Sikh community. Giving representation to the border belt appeared to be the other reason. Anmol, a singer, has been a staunch youth volunteer of the party and had even sung the “Kejriwal anthem”. Dr Nijjar, president of Chief Khalsa Diwan, was initially made the Pro Tem Speaker, before Kultar Singh Sandhwan was elected the Vidhan Sabha Speaker.
Aman Arora is a second-term MLA and had won the Assembly election with the highest margin of 75,000 votes. His exclusion from the Cabinet after the government was formed in March had raised many eyebrows. Jouramajra has been included to give representation to Patiala district.
As soon as the news of Cabinet expansion spread on Sunday morning, intense lobbying started amongst the two-term AAP MLAs to secure a berth. Saravjit Kaur Manuke (Jagraon MLA), Budh Ram (Budhlada), both re-elected in the 16th Vidhan Sabha, and Neena Mittal (Rajpura) were reportedly lobbying for a ministry. Since the names of two MLAs to be inducted were withheld till 9.30 pm, speculations were rife about changes in the initially decided list.
The Punjab Government is learnt to have sent a letter to Governor Banwarilal Purohit last night seeking his approval for the expansion, which is now scheduled for Monday evening.
The Tribune was the first to report on June 11 about the Cabinet expansion after the Budget session. Of the 18 berths in the council of ministers, eight are vacant. One vacancy occurred following the ouster of Health Minister Dr Vijay Singla on corruption charges. With the inclusion of five fresh faces, three slots will still remain unfilled.
Sources say the next round of expansion could take place in the run up to the 2024 General Election. The government is also learnt to be looking to appoint advisers to the CM and adjust some of its party leaders as the chairpersons of various boards and corporations.
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