While Akali Dal stalwart Parkash Singh Badal is set to create history on Wednesday when he will be sworn in as Punjab's Chief Minister for the fifth time, the alliance partner, the BJP, would lose one ministerial berth in the next Cabinet, which would have at least four “first-timers.”
In the 117-member House, the government cannot exceed the statutory ceiling of 18 Ministers. Continuing with the practice followed in 2007, Mr. Badal has preferred to fill up all berths, leaving nothing to speculation. His son, Sukhbir Singh, who is also the president of the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal, would get his second tenure as Deputy Chief Minister, while the former Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Charanjit Singh Atwal would be protem Speaker.
The BJP, which rallied 12 seats in the ruling alliance's total of 68, will get four ministerial berths as compared to five in the previous regime, when the party won a record 19 seats.
Bhagat Chunni Lal, who was elected leader of the party's legislature group, Madan Mohan Mittal, Sujit Kumar Jyani and Anil Joshi would assume charge as Ministers from the BJP quota. Senior leader Manoranjan Kalia, who was controversially dropped in the last regime, has been kept out. He had played a vital role in ensuring that the ruling alliance made a clean sweep of all the seats in Jalandhar district.
In the Akali Dal's quota, the former president of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, Bibi Jagir Kaur; senior leaders Jathedar Tota Singh and Sikander Singh Malooka; and the former Minister, Surjit Singh Rakhra, will return to the Council of Ministers after 10 years. More interesting is the return of Bikram Singh Majithia to the Cabinet. Mr. Majithia is the brother of Akali MP from Bathinda Harsimrat Kaur Badal, wife of Mr. Sukhbir Singh. In the last government, Mr. Majithia had voluntarily stepped down to pave the way for his brother-in-law to become the Deputy Chief Minister, after Mr. Sukhbir Singh decided to wrap up his role in national politics. Mr. Majithia is also the president of the Youth Akali Dal, whose another former chief, Sharanjit Singh Dhillon, would figure in the next Cabinet.
Meanwhile, final touches were being given to the preparations for the swearing-in ceremony scheduled at Chappar Chiri, with the ‘Fateh Burj' of the Baba Banda Singh Bahadur memorial forming the backdrop. Senior leaders of the NDA and some “friends” from the UPA constituents are expected to participate.
Chappar Chiri has a unique place in history — it was the site of the historic battle in 1710, where the Sikhs led by Baba Banda Singh Bahadur defeated the Mughal governor of Sirhind province, Wazir Khan, who had executed the younger sons of Guru Gobind Singh.