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‘Giant Slayer’ of Elderly Badal Makes it to Punjab Cabinet

In Political News
May 31, 2023

Just 14-month-old AAP government in Punjab on Wednesday made its third Cabinet expansion by inducting two first-time legislators, comprising “giant slayer” who had defeated Akali patriarch and five-time chief minister Parkash Singh Badal, as ministers, taking their numbers in the Council of Ministers to 16, comprising Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann.

Still there are two vacancies in the Council of Ministers. The new inducted ministers were Gurmeet Singh Khudian, who hogged the limelight by defeating Akali Dal leader Badal, now dead, from his stronghold Lambi, and Balkar Singh, a former police officer and now legislator from Kartarpur (reserved) in Jalandhar district. Governor Banwarilal Purohit administered the oath of office to both at a brief swearing-in ceremony held at the Raj Bhavan in Chandigarh amidst the presence of Chief Minister Mann, his Cabinet colleagues and Rajya Sabha member Raghav Chadha, among others.

The media was allowed to attend the swearing-in ceremony. A day earlier, Local Government Minister Inderbir Singh Nijjar, an MLA from Amritsar South, resigned from the Cabinet. He was caught in the eye of storm for his statement to back Daily Ajit’s editor-in-chief Barjinder Singh Hamdard, who is facing the Vigilance Bureau probe.

However, Nijjar, who had found a place in the Cabinet in the first expansion in July last year, cited personal reasons for his resignation. Khudian, a “giant slayer” had defeated five-time Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal in the 2022 Assembly polls, while Balkar Singh had played a crucial role in ensuring a grand victory for the party in the just concluded Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll.

While a matriculate Khudian, 59, legislator from Lambi in Muktsar, won with a formidable margin of 11,396 votes, Balkar Singh (59), who retired as Deputy Commissioner of Police, had defeated sitting Congress legislator Chaudhary Surinder Singh by a margin of 4,574 votes. Born into a political family, Khudian’s father Jagdev Singh was a former Akali leader and remained market committee chairman as well.

His father contested the parliamentary elections from Faridkot on SAD (Amritsar) ticket in 1989, and won the election with a margin of more than 1.5 lakh votes. Before Local Government Minister Nijjar exit, AAP had unceremonially removed legislators Vijay Singla and Fauja Singh Sarari from the post of minister in the Cabinet. Both Singla and Sarari were facing corruption allegations.

Before Nijjar’s resignation, the Cabinet had 15 ministers, including the Chief Minister. Mann, who took over as the Chief Minister on March 16 last year, first expanded the cabinet by inducting five MLAs as ministers in July 2022, and then one more was inducted in January this year. The constitutional cap allows 18 ministers, including the chief minister, which is 15 per cent of the number of members of the state Assembly.