Five BJP MLAs were sworn in as Ministers at a brief function here on Sunday. Punjab Governor Shivraj V. Patil administered them the oath of office and secrecy. Tikshan Sood, Laxmi Kanta Chawla, Satpal Gosain, Surjit Kumar Jaiyani and Arunesh Shakir have been given the Cabinet rank. With this, the strength of the Akali Dal-BJP government of Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has been restored.
Among those present on the occasion were Mr. Badal, Assembly Speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon, BJP vice-president Shanta Kumar and the former Union Minister, S.S. Dhindsa.
Five Ministers of the BJP resigned three days ago, in what is seen as an “operation clean-up” after the CBI registered a case of bribery in a controversial land deal, in which Chief Parliamentary Secretary Raj Kumar Khurana was arrested and Ministers Manoranjan Kalia and Swarna Ram were questioned.
Of the five Ministers who resigned on May 12, Mr. Sood and Ms. Chawla have been retained.
While Mr. Kalia attended the function at the Raj Bhavan, Swarna Ram and Master Mohan Lal were conspicuous by their absence.
Media reports indicated that both Mr. Kalia and Mr. Swarna Ram were upset that the party high command “indicted” them, though the CBI had not even named them in the FIR. Master Mohan Lal, previously Transport Minister, was upset that he was dropped, though he was not even remotely linked to any controversy.
Sources in the BJP indicated that Ms. Chawla was not pleased at being given the portfolios of social security, women and child development in place of Health and Family Welfare which she held previously.
Mr. Sood, who was previously elected leader of the BJP group in the Assembly, would now be No. 3 in the Cabinet. He would look after local government, industries and commerce as well as parliamentary affairs. Mr Gosian, previously Deputy Speaker, would look after health and family welfare, while Mr. Jiyani would be in charge of transport, technical education and industrial training.
Mr. Arunesh Shakir has been given forests, wild life preservation, labour and medical education and research.
Earlier, Mr. Badal administered the oath of office and secrecy to five BJP MLAs, swearing them in as Chief Parliamentary Secretaries, at a separate ceremony. Those appointed were Sukhpal Singh Nannu, Dinesh Singh, K.D. Bhandari, Amarjit Singh Sahi and Bishamber Dass.
Keywords: Punjab Ministry expansion