Ruchika M Khanna
Chandigarh, May 30
Local body polls in mind, Punjab’s AAP government is all set to expand its Cabinet, by giving representation to Muktsar and Jalandhar in the Council of Ministers.
Lambi MLA Gurmeet Singh Khudian and Kartarpur MLA Balkar Singh will be sworn in as ministers in the Bhagwant Mann Cabinet on Wednesday morning, even as Local Government Minister Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar has “resigned” from the Cabinet.
The government has sought time from Governor Banwarilal Purohit for the oath-taking ceremony on Wednesday forenoon. The letter seeking time from the Governor for the Cabinet expansion was sent late this evening, as parleys in the party continued on who should be the new ministers.
Khudian, a “giant slayer” had defeated five-time CM late Parkash Singh Badal in the 2022 Assembly polls. Since the government was formed, his name for induction in the Cabinet was doing the rounds. On the other hand, Balkar Singh had played a pivotal role in ensuring a grand success for AAP in the just-held Jalandhar Lok Sabha byelection.
Local Government Minister Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar has “resigned” from the Cabinet, said party sources. However, the corridors of power are abuzz that the close proximity of one of his close relatives with SAD leader Bikram Singh Majithia, was being looked down upon by the party top brass. Party sources, however, insisted that the reason for Nijjar “not willing to continue” was his soft demeanour that would not have favoured the party’s penetration into grassroots-level during the civic body polls scheduled later this year.
This is the third expansion of the Mann Cabinet during in the AAP’s 14-month rule in the state. Also, Nijjar becomes the third minister to have “resigned” from the Cabinet during the AAP regime. Both Vijay Singla and Fauja Singh Sarari had resigned from the Council of Ministers earlier. Both ministers were facing corruption charges.
Sources in the ruling party say that the reason for choosing MLAs from Doaba and Malwa was not just to give these regions representation in the government, but to also to reward party loyalists, having a clean image, and those who worked hard for the party’s success at the hustings. Party sources say that the new inductees have been chosen because of their people connect.
It may be noted that the Council of Ministers can have 18 ministers, including the Chief Minister. With the new expansion tomorrow, the total strength of the Cabinet will be 16, leaving two berths vacant.
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