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Punjab

Either him or us’: Punjab ministers vs chief secy plays out at cabinet meet

May 12, 2020 05:50 AM

COURTESY HT MAY 12

Either him or us’: Punjab ministers vs chief secy plays out at cabinet meet
NO CONFIDENCE: Will skip meetings attended by Karan Avtar, ministers tell Amarinder; chief minister says he will look into matter

Gurpreet Singh Nibber

letterschd@hindustantimes.com

chandigarh : Punjab ministers on Monday asked chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh to sack chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh and declared that they would not attend cabinet meetings as long as he is present there.

A government release stated that the CM had taken note of the complaint against Karan Avtar by some ministers. “The CM said he was cognisant of their concern and said he would look into the matter,” it added.

The chief secretary had taken on the ministers at a pre-cabinet meeting on the excise policy on Saturday, insisting that the changes recommended by the ministers to the policy could not be taken on board. The unsavoury face-off had led to ministers storming out of the meeting, with finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal being the first one to walk out.

The ministers returned on Monday to deliver their ultimatum. As the meeting began, official sources revealed, the ministers, especially Manpreet and technical education minister Charanjit Singh Channi, told the chief minister that they would not attend cabinet meetings in case the CS is present. This could be little problematic. According to the rulebook, the chief secretary is also the secretary to the cabinet and coordinates all meetings of the cabinet and signs official records. Additional chief secretary (home) Satish Chandra convened the meeting in place of Karan Avtar who had taken half day’s leave with the chief minister’s permission.

As per sources, Manpreet was the first to raise his grouse and was joined by Channi and minister of cooperation and jails Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa. Before they spoke to the CM, who was talking to ministers through video conference, all officers were told to leave the meeting room. Manpreet told the CM that situation has reached a flashpoint and he would not be able to attend any official meeting with Karan Avtar Singh, said sources.

“The chief minister has accepted our demand to change the chief secretary as he asked all of us to bring our grouse on record,” Randhawa told HT. “Manpreet and I said the behaviour of the chief secretary is not acceptable. He is rude and doesn’t understand that officers and elected representatives are two sides of a coin,” Channi said. He said the chief secretary had been rude to him in the past too and had even questioned his integrity.

On being asked whether the chief secretary was on his way out, Channi said, “Most probably yes, as CM has said he would act”.

The chief secretary has reportedly signalled that he was ready to apologise to bury the hatchet. But Manpreet has rejected the proposal outrightly.“Some ministers want to give the chief secretary a second chance but the finance minister is adamant,” said a cabinet minister, pleading anonymity. Later, Karan Avtar joined the CM in a video conference meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. HT’s efforts to reach out to him for comments yielded no results.

Hours before the cabinet meeting on Monday, Congress leader and Gidderbaha MLA Amrinder Singh Raja Warring took to Twitter to target Karan Avtar Singh, alleging his family’s links and stakes in liquor trade in Punjab. “The CS must declare business interest of his immediate family members, especially if they are covered under the domain of his department. Is it not a conflict of interest,” asked Raja Warring. He also requested the chief minister to inquire into the matter.

 

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