Punjab cabinet minister Brahm Mohindra Saturday appealed to his ministerial colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu to assume charge of the power ministry, amid an ongoing stalemate between Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and the cricketer-turned-politician.
However, opposition parties including the SAD, the BJP and the AAP slammed the chief minister, raising questions over his leadership claiming that the ongoing tussle between the two has led to a "constitutional crisis" in the state.
"I want to appeal to him (Sidhu) that he should take charge of his department. It (power ministry) is a good and powerful portfolio," said Mohindra, the local bodies minister.
On June 6, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had divested Sidhu of the Local Government and Tourism and Cultural Affairs Departments and allotted him the power and new and renewable energy portfolio.
A month after the cabinet reshuffle, Sidhu is yet to take charge of his new assignment.
Asserting that the portfolio reshuffle exercise was the prerogative of the chief minister, Mohindra said if Sidhu had any grouse, he could have resolved it with the CM after assuming the charge.
BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh lashed out at Amarinder Singh and Sidhu, saying consumers in the state were "suffering" because of high power tariff while the two ministers were at loggerheads.
"It is probably the first case where a cabinet minister is not ready to obey orders of his CM. Nothing is going right for the Congress government at present," said Chugh.
"Either the CM should take back the charge of power ministry from Sidhu or the minister should himself step down," said Chugh.
The Shiromani Akali Dal, the BJP's ally, said the state was facing a "constitutional crisis".
"This is a case of the constitutional crisis as a minister is not following orders of his CM. It is first time that a minister is not taking charge of his portfolio. The cabinet has set a bad precedent. Tomorrow, if a bureaucrat refuses to join his new duties then what will happen," said SAD spokesman Daljit Singh Cheema here.
"This incident is a perfect example of breakdown of chain of command," he added.
The SAD further asked the CM to dismiss Sidhu from the cabinet for not following his orders.
"Power consumers have been suffering because of high electricity tariff and outages in the state and here the minister is not ready to take the charge," said Cheema.
Aam Aadmi Party leader and MLA Harpal Singh Cheema said if Sidhu does not want to assume the charge, then he should step aside and give somebody else the chance to take over.
The tension between Amarinder Singh and his cabinet colleague had come out in the open in May when the CM blamed Sidhu for the "inept handling" of the local government department, claiming that it resulted in the "poor performance" of the Congress in urban areas in the Lok Sabha polls.
The CM had said that the urban vote bank had been the backbone of the Congress in Punjab but Sidhu's "failure" in carrying out any development work impacted the party's prospects in the election.
Sidhu, however, had said that his department was being "singled out publicly" while asserting that he could not be taken for granted as he had been a "performer throughout".