It’s been over a month since Punjab cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu’s portfolio was changed from the Local Bodies’ to the Ministry of Power and Renewable Energy. However, he is yet to assume charge of his new department.
Sidhu’s absence from the all-important ministry comes at a time when electricity demand in the state has touched an all-time high and there has been a fresh plantation of water-dependent paddy.
The maximum demand during 2019-20 was 13,633 MW as compared to last year’s demand of 12, 638 MW. Due to the delayed monsoon, the demand for power consumption in the agriculture sector this year has also seen a significant increase.
The situation even forced Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh to take the reins of the ministry and convene a meeting of the electricity department officials to review the power situation in the state.
The disgruntled leader, who sees the change of portfolio as a demotion, was last seen beside
Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi on June 10 after which he has gone incommunicado.
Some reports suggest he is at the Vaishno Devi shrine in Jammu and Kashmir as locals had spotted him offering prayers at the shrine a few days back.
Capt. Amarinder Singh has so far refrained from speaking on the issue, however, clamour for Sidhu’s ouster is getting louder with several other cabinet ministers asking him to make a decision fast.
Senior cabinet colleague Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa said, “Only he knows why he is not assuming charge of the department. The delay has been too long. The ministry is losing its grace. Make a decision. This way or that way. Either join the ministry or leave it gracefully.”
Gurpreet Singh Kangar, who held the charge of the power ministry prior to Sidhu, also echoed the same views.
“I would like to tell him that this department is a very good one. It needs a good person to head it. If chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh has handed him such a big responsibility then he should soon assume charge or tell the CM that he doesn’t want to work,” said Kangar.
The bitter relationship between the Chief Minister and his cabinet colleague has been out in the open for quite some time now. Just before he was stripped of his ministry, Sidhu had addressed a press conference in New Delhi and said he cannot be taken for granted.
Capt. Amarinder Singh had cited “inept” handling of local bodies department by Sidhu, which led to the party’s poor performance in urban areas, as the reason behind taking away the role.
Navjot Singh Sidhu had even refrained from campaigning in Punjab, barring a couple of rallies, and had made a “friendly-match” jibe against the chief minister, hinting at a collusion between Capt. Amarinder Singh and the Badals.
The rift became even more evident when reacting to Sidhu’s mannerisms, Capt. Amarinder Singh had said, “Perhaps he is ambitious and wants to be chief minister.”