New Delhi: After a whole decade, Captain Amarinder Singh returned as chief minister of Punjab on Thursday. Singh took oath at the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh along with seven cabinet ministers and two ministers of state (MoS). This is Singh’s second term as the chief minister of the border state.
The choice of Singh’s cabinet ministers reflected his focus on key social groups—Dalits, Hindus, Jatt Sikhs and Muslims—as well as reward for previous performance. Punjab is the one out of the five states, which went to poll recently, where Congress party has formed government.
Senior-most Congress leader Brahm Mohindra is health minister, Manpreet Singh Badal is finance minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu has been given the charge of local government department and Charanjit Singh Channi has taken charge of technical education and industrial training.
Sidhu, cricketer-turned-politician and former BJP leader, is a popular Jatt Sikh leader from Manjha. A key campaigner who has political clout in Amritsar, he joined the Congress in the run-up to the polls two months ago.
Badal, a former finance minister in the SAD government and estranged nephew of former chief minister Prakash Singh Badal, was a prize catch for the Congress. Manpreet Badal led People’s Party of Punjab, which had 5% vote share in 2012 assembly elections, merged with the Congress in January last year. He is credited with outlining the Congress’s poll manifesto.
Channi, a young Dalit face in the party who won from Chamkaur Sahib seat, is also a significant choice as he led the party’s forces in opposition as the leader of the legislative party. “We have our programs that were part of our manifesto. We will start work on that. A lot of them will be taken up in the first cabinet meeting,” chief minister Singh told reporters after taking charge.
Congress won 77 out of the 117 seats in Punjab with a vote share 38.5% defeating the outgoing Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) combine in a three-cornered contest with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
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Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony was attended by several senior party leaders including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who later in the day flew abroad with his mother and party president Sonia Gandhi and would return together.
Others who took oath as cabinet ministers on Thursday include Rana Gurjit Singh, Tripat Rajinder Bajwa, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Brahm Mahindra. Razia Sultana, and Aruna Chaudhary as MoS.