Punjab Cabinet reshuffle: Nijjer out; Balkar Singh and Gurmeet Singh Khudian to be sworn in as new Ministers

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Punjab Cabinet reshuffle: Nijjer out; Balkar Singh and Gurmeet Singh Khudian to be sworn in as new Ministers

Wednesday, 31 May 2023 | Monika Malik | Chandigarh

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann's Cabinet is set for another reshuffle of his Council of Ministers, with the state Local Government Minister Dr Inderbir Singh Nijjar tendering his resignation from the Cabinet on personal grounds.
Forwarding the same to Governor Banwarilal Purohit for “early acceptance”, the Chief Minister has also proposed the names of Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) legislators — Balkar Singh from Kartarpur, and Gurmeet Singh Khudian from Lambi — for inducting in his Cabinet.
The exit of Amritsar South MLA Dr Nijjar from the Cabinet came as a surprise and against the speculations that it would be Food and Civil Supplies Minister Lal Chand Kataruchak, facing serious allegations of sexual misconduct, who would put down his papers. Notably, Dr Nijjar was inducted in the Cabinet in July last year, along with four other Ministers.
A spokesperson of the Chief Minister’s Office said that in a communique to the Governor, Bhagwant Mann has impressed upon him to accept the resignation of Dr Nijjar, who has resigned on personal grounds, from Cabinet.
“The Chief Minister has also proposed the names Balkar Singh, MLA Kartarpur, and Gurmeet Singh Khudian, MLA Lambi, for inducting them as Cabinet Ministers. He had requested the Governor to accord kind approval to administer the Oath of Office and Secrecy to the new Ministers at 11 am on May 31 in Punjab Raj Bhawan, Chandigarh,” said the spokesperson.
As per the information available, the Raj Bhawan had not received any file from the Government regarding the Cabinet reshuffle till 8 pm, before the Governor called it a day. Thus, the Governor’s approval to the resignation and the timings for the oath ceremony of two new ministers will come only after the file will be put before him on Wednesday morning.
“As of now, the time slot of 11 am has been reserved on the Government’s request,” a government official informed The Pioneer.
Punjab can have 18 ministers, including the Chief Minister. Currently, there are 15 Ministers in the Cabinet, including Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann. After Tuesday’s expansion, two posts will still be vacant. In July, Mann carried out the first Cabinet expansion, inducting five Ministers.
The Cabinet reshuffle is being carried out on the day when AAP supremo and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is also scheduled to be in Chandigarh on Wednesday.
As per reports, the ruling AAP is planning to exhibit its strength, especially at a time when its top leadership is going nationwide to gather support in party-led Delhi Government’s fight against the Centre’s ordinance.
Chief Minister Mann has invited all the Ministers, party MLAs, along with the parliamentarians from both the House of the Parliament for dinner on Wednesday night, along with their spouses and families, at his official residence.
The meeting assumes significance as Kejriwal would be meeting the party leaders for the first time after recently winning the Jalandhar bypoll. By winning the Jalandhar Lok Sabha by-election, AAP has secured a berth in the Lok Sabha, which has also come as a morale-booster for the party, especially ahead of the ensuing 2024 general elections.
Besides, the dinner diplomacy is also expected to be aimed at apprising the state party leaders about the Ordinance brought in by BJP-led Central Government to gain control over officers in Delhi, besides sharing with them the progress made in its “outreach campaign”.
It has been learnt that the AAP, in its attempt to take on board all the non-BJP parties, including the Congress, in fight against the Centre’s ordinance, wanted its Punjab leaders to try creating a scope for dialogue with the state Congress unit over the matter, and putting forth its point. Notably, the Punjab Congress unit had strongly asked the party high command not to extend its support to the AAP and Kejriwal over the ordinance row.
As per available information, Kejriwal would be spending a night at Chandigarh before leaving with Bhagwant Mann on Thursday for Tamil Nadu and Odisha to gain support of the DMK and BJD against the Centre’s ordinance.

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