Amid rift with Punjab CM, Sidhu loses local bodies ministry

Wednesday 12th June 2019 06:22 EDT

Chandigarh: Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh rejigged the portfolios of most of his ministers following the Lok Sabha elections. Barring four ministers, there are some changes in the portfolios of all the state ministers. Navjot Singh Sidhu was stripped of his local bodies ministry and given the charge of power and new & renewable energy sources. Following the change of Sidhu's portfolio, rift between Amarinder and Sidhu further widened and Sidhu skipped the cabinet meeting. Later, he addressed the media to say that he did not attend the meeting as he has been singled out in the Punjab government for the election loss. He asserted he could not be "taken for granted".

Earlier, Shiromani Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal also took potshots at Sidhu. Badal said that Sidhu should be stripped of all ministries. According to sources, a group of cabinet ministers demanded Sidhu's removal after the first cabinet meeting. Amarinder had recently said he intended to change the cricketer-turned-politician's portfolio of local government department over the party's dismal performance in the Lok Sabha polls.

Sidhu meets Rahul

Meanwhile, Sidhu met party president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi and apprised him of the "situation", after he was divested of the crucial local bodies department. The developments came after Sidhu, who moved from the BJP to the Congress just before 2017 Assembly polls, had skipped a cabinet meeting and instead chose to address the media at his official residence. Tensions between Amarinder and Sidhu had come out in the open last month when the chief minister had blamed Sidhu for his inept handling of the local government department for the poor performance of the Congress in the urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls.

The chief minister had also said that the urban vote-bank had been the backbone of the Congress in Punjab but Sidhu's failure to do any development work had impacted the party. After the ministry snub, Sidhu was left out of eight consultative groups formed by the CM to expedite implementation of the state government's schemes.

Barring four ministers, all the others have now got new portfolios. The Chief Minister believed that the reallocations would help to further streamline the government systems and processes, and bring more transparency and efficiency in the various departments. With the Congress government in the state nearing the mid-term mark, Amarinder hoped the exercise would re-energise his team and bring a freshness into the working of the major departments.

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