The induction of ‘tainted’ former minister and Kapurthala MLA Rana Gurjit Singh could set off a fresh round of dissension among a section of Congressmen in Punjab as his elevation was fiercely protested by some senior MLAs. Gurjit Singh’s induction has already given ammunition to the opposition to fire at the Charanjit Singh Channi government. Ahead of the oath-taking ceremony, an interesting turn of events had unfolded after reports had emerged that Singh’s name had been deleted from the list of probable ministers after a section of MLAs had raised objections.
A letter written by former state Congress chief Mohinder Singh Kaypee and other MLAs, including Sukhpal Singh Khaira, stated that they would oppose the decision of the proposed inclusion of Gurjit Singh tooth and nail as he was already dropped from the cabinet in January 2018 due to a mining scandal involving him and his family. Despite this, Gurjit Singh managed to get his name included.
Sources say his proximity with the high command helped him clinch the deal. The inclusion of Gurjit Singh, a politician from Doaba region, was also important for the Congress high command to maintain regional balance as both the chief minister and state unit president Navjot Singh Sidhu belong to Malwa, while the two Deputy CMs belong to the Majha region, leaving the Doaba region under-represented.
Three-time MLA, Singh had defeated former PM IK Gujral’s son
Gurjit Singh, 65, is a three-time MLA from Kapurthala and a businessman from that part of UP, which now falls in Uttarakhand. The Congress veteran had moved to Punjab in 1989. A liquor and sugar baron, he also owns a paper mill in Ropar. He was the richest candidate in the 2017 Punjab elections with assets to the tune of Rs 170 crore.
He became an MLA from Kapurthala in 2002. In 2004, he defeated former Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral’s son Naresh Gujral to become an MP from Jalandhar. It is a comeback for him in the cabinet as he served as the Power and Irrigation Minister in 2017 under Amarinder Singh government. He, however, got embroiled in an alleged scam over sand mine allocation, forcing him to resign in January 2018.
Government sources, however, claimed that an inquiry instituted by then CM Captain Amarinder had found no substantial evidence against him and, hence, there was no reason to keep the Doaba politician out of the cabinet.