Nine new Cabinet ministers were sworn-in at the Raj Bhavan here on Saturday, in the first expansion of over a year-old Amarinder Singh-led Congress government. Ministers of State Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana were also elevated as Cabinet ministers.
Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore administered the oath of office to the new ministers.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, his cabinet colleagues and other senior party leaders, including Asha Kumari and Harish Chaudahry, were present during the swearing-in ceremony. Five-time MLA from Amritsar Central O P Soni was the first one among the ministers to be sworn-in.
Besides Soni, Rana Gurmit Sodhi (four-time MLA from Guru Har Sahai), Sukhjinder Randhawa (MLA from Dera Baba Nanak), Gurpreet Kangar (from Rampura Phul), Sukhbinder Sarkaria (from Raja Sansi in Amritsar), Balbir Sidhu (from Mohali), all three-time legislators, were also sworn-in.
Youth leader and Sangrur MLA Vijay Inder Singla, two-time MLA Sunder Sham Arora from Hoshiarpur and two time MLA from Ludhiana West Bharat Bhushan Ashu and too were administered oath. All the Ministers who were sworn-in, and the two women MoS who were elevated to the cabinet rank, took oath in Punjabi.
In the Cabinet expansion, the Congress has tried to give due representation to all the regions. Among the new Ministers, four are prominent Hindu faces while five others belong to the Sikh community. Most of those who have been inducted are considered close to the Chief Minister.
Chief Minister Singh had earlier said seniority was a key criterion in the selection of the new ministers, and that they were chosen keeping in view their regional representation, along with their capabilities and strengths.
The decision on the finalisation of the names of the new Ministers came yesterday after Amarinder Singh held a meeting with Congress president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi.
Among the new ministers, the politically crucial region of Malwa in Punjab has been rewarded with maximum Ministerial berths with five slots while Majha got three and Doaba one.
O P Soni, Sukhjinder Randhawa, Sukhbinder Sarkaria are MLAs from the Majha region of the state; while Ashu, Vijay Inder Singla, Sodhi, Sidhu and Kangar belong to the politically important Malwa region. Arora belongs to the Doaba region.
Including CM Singh, there are nine ministers at present, and with the induction of as many news faces, the Punjab Cabinet has touched the maximum strength of 15 per cent of the state assembly. The Cabinet expansion was pending for some time now and was delayed for one reason or the other in the past.
Meanwhile, the exercise has led to resentment among few Congress MLAs, who accused the party of ignoring them. Three legislators -- Sangat Singh Gilzian from Urmur assembly segment, Nathu Ram from Balluana and Surjit Singh Dhiman from Amargarh -- have resigned from their state party positions.
Opposition Aam Aadmi Party lashed out at the Congress after the expansion, accusing it of ignoring the representation of Scheduled Caste and backward classes among the newly sworn-in ministers.