Punjab CM, Deputy CMs in Delhi to discuss Cabinet expansion; Sidhu tags along ‘in line of duty’

The team will meet AICC general secretary Harish Rawat, who is the Punjab affairs in-charge, in Delhi, sources said

Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, his two Deputies and State Congress chief Navjot Singh Sidhu took a chartered flight to Delhi on September 21 to discuss the expansion of the new Cabinet with the party’s central leadership, sources said.

The team will meet AICC general secretary Harish Rawat, who is the Punjab affairs in-charge, in Delhi, they said.

Mr. Sidhu uploaded a photo on Twitter showing him with Mr. Channi and Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, one of the two Deputy Chief Ministers, beside a chartered plane. “In line of duty!!” he tweeted.

Mr. Channi, Mr. Randhawa and the other Deputy Chief Minister, O P Soni, were sworn in on September 20, two days after Amarinder Singh resigned as Chief Minister of the poll-bound State.

After hectic consultations, the party had picked Mr. Channi as the leader of the Congress Legislature Party.

Mr. Randhawa, a Jat Sikh, and Mr. Soni, a Hindu, were apparently chosen to balance the caste equations.

Sources said the Cabinet is likely to see the induction of fresh faces after the Delhi meeting, where the probable candidates will be discussed.

There are indications that those who rallied behind Mr. Sidhu in the power tussle with Mr. Amarinder Singh will find a place in the new Cabinet.

The names of Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Madan Lal Jalalpur, Inderbir Singh Bolaria, Gurkirat Singh Kotli, Pargat Singh and Sangat Singh Gilzian are doing the rounds.

Mr. Pargat Singh, considered close to Mr. Sidhu, is at present the Punjab Congress general secretary and Mr. Gilzian is a working president of the party’s State unit.

There is speculation whether Mr. Amarinder Singh-loyalists — like Gurmit Singh Sodhi, who was the Sports Minister, and Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, who held the Ministry of Social Justice — would retain their positions.

Mr. Channi himself was part of the group of Ministers who constantly targeted Mr. Amarinder Singh, making it clear that they were part of the Sidhu camp.

Shortly before the swearing of the three Ministers on September 20, Mr. Harish Rawat triggered a row by suggesting that the coming Assembly elections will be fought under Mr. Sidhu’s leadership.

Former State Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, who was at one stage also seen as a CM candidate, said the “baffling” remark would undermine the new CM’s authority.

In a damage-control exercise, the Congress then said both Mr. Channi and Mr. Sidhu will lead the fight in the next election.

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