After losing two wickets, Captain needs to be more vigilant now. Within months after forming the government with an overwhelming mandate, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh suffered a double blow this week as he lost two wickets in a row. No doubt, there are numerous players with the chief minister to fill the gap but it was heartbreaking for him to see two of his close aides, namely Suresh Kumar and Rana Gurjit Singh, departing one after another that too within a gap of 24 hours. Interestingly, Amarinder, popularly called “Maharaja”, attempted his best to save both of his soldiers, but one of them had to say ‘goodbye’ bowing to the orders of the judicial court and the second one lost his job on the orders of party high command. The 1983-batch IAS officer Suresh Kumar, who retired as Additional Chief Secretary in Punjab in April 2016, was personally chosen by Captain Amarinder Singh to be appointed as his Chief Principal Secretary immediately after becoming the chief minister in March last year. With different forces working against the officer and the chief minister, a resident of Mohali challenged the appointment in Punjab and Haryana High Court. Explaining the case with facts and details, finally the petitioner convinced the judiciary to declare his appointment to a cadre post as Void, being in violation of the Constitution. It was observed that the state didn’t even bother to get the sanction of the Governor over the appointment, which was, otherwise, a must. Those who are in touch with the Chief Minister Office (CMO) know it well that Kumar, known for owning a clean image and a reputation of speaking his mind, was a virtual epicentre of the government in Captain Amarinder regime. It is for the powers and confidence, the chief minister entrusted upon him, the officer was also addressed as ‘Super CM on different occasions. Losing such an important player not only fractured the CMO, but also gave a severe blow to the CM himself as the later developments also signalled that few persons within the government and the Congress worked well to get the appointment challenged and ensuring it to reach a conclusive end. Kumar was so quick in stepping down after the High Court quashed his appointment that he didn’t even wait for the words from the Advocate General whom the chief minister had assigned the job to examine the court order and initiate legal recourse to get the appointment validated. Before the CM could forget the setback, the very next day, he was called to Delhi by the All India Congress Committee chief Rahul Gandhi with the resignation of Power Minister Rana Gurjit Singh. Rana, who was in the thick of the things for his name landing in the sand mining auction controversy, could have been saved as the CM’s constituted one-member judicial commission had largely declared him innocent, but the moment Enforcement Directorate (ED) summoned Rana’s son, Rana Inder Partap Singh, in a FEMA case related to the exchange of Rs 100 crore, he was forced to tender his resignation. Though Amarinder backed his Cabinet colleague at every juncture, he had to bow before the party chief Rahul Gandhi, as the latter found Rana controversy defaming the Congress with also foreseeing its implication on the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Finally, directed by Gandhi scion, Captain Amarinder Singh had no option but to accept his minister’s resignation. With the exit of Rana, Doaba region lost its representation in Punjab Cabinet. The development also strengthened the Opposition as the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLA and Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira who went at Rana hammer and tongs, finally succeeded in his mission.Meanwhile, the SAD-BJP alliance, which is at position three in Vidhan Sabha also got a whip to crack at the rulers’ back projecting it an “established’ case of corruption against the sitting minister. Since Rana was always seen as the close confidant of Amarinder, the Opposition also accused him of patronising corruption and illegal practices being done by his partymen. However, Amarinder, known for his bold decisions, while declaring the acceptance of Rana’s resignation at Delhi again put up a brave face and announced that the expansion of his Cabinet would take place after the Ludhiana MC polls, with a mention that the new appointments would be a mix of youth and talent, with meritocracy the key criterion in the selection of the new ministers.Having won 77 out of 117 assembly seats about a year ago and numerous MLAs running from pillar to post to get elevated, the jolted Amarinder will now have to be more vigilant while selecting the meritorious candidates taking whom along, he has to deliver all that he had promised with the people of Punjab in the next four years.
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