Punjab CM defends Vini Mahajan’s appointment as chief secretary

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Chandigarh, Jun 29 (PTI) Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday defended the appointment senior IAS officer Vini Mahajan as the state’s new chief secretary, saying it is to ensure continuity and she can continue till his government's term ends in 2022.

The chief minister also said there was nothing wrong in having a husband and wife, working together as state’s police chief and chief secretary respectively.

Vini Mahajan’s husband Dinkar Gupta is currently the state's Punjab’s director general of police.

Singh also dismissed criticism over Mahajan’s appointment by superseding five senior IAS officers and said all these five officers were retiring before the term of his government would end in 2022.

“I had nobody other than Mahajan who could carry on till 2022. It was continuity,” said Singh in reply to a question.

She is also 'one of the most able' officers, the chief minister added.

Singh also rejected the criticism that husband and wife were posted together in key positions in the state.

Citing an instance of a couple posted at top positions, he said when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister, Sarla Grewal was Gandhi's principal secretary and her husband SS Grewal was the Cabinet secretary.

“Why cannot you have one DGP and one CS here? I do not find anything wrong in it,” he said.

Mahajan is the first woman chief secretary of Punjab.

Former Leader of Opposition Sukhpal Singh Khaira had questioned Mahajan’s appointment as CS, saying five IAS officers were superseded in this appointment against the “laid down norms”.

To a question on Cabinet reshuffle, Singh said there was no such plan.

The government is currently focused at tackling coronavirus crisis, he said, adding all the ministers are working well.

To a question on chances of former minister Navjot Singh Sidhu being given any new responsibility, the CM said it is up to the party high command to take a decision on it.

Asked about Sidhu’s address to Punjabi diaspora in which he allegedly blamed all state governments since 1997 for pushing the state into indebtedness, Singh said he did not want to make any comment on what the cricketer-turned-politician said.

The chief minister, however, blamed Akalis for the dwindling economic situation of Punjab.

Earlier on Monday, Sidhu addressed Punjabi diaspora organised by the Indian Overseas Congress.

On the issue of the Ladakh standoff, the CM hoped that the government of India was taking all precautions.

On the issue of the ongoing probe by the SIT in the Behbal Kalan firing incident, the CM said that the investigation is still on and none could be declared accused at this stage.

Responding to a query on the alleged 'mafia-raj' in the state, the chief minister categorically said that both the civil and police administrations were pro-actively involved in checking the illegal sale of liquor and sand.

On the issue of revival of the state's economy as per the recommendations of Montek Singh Ahluwalia's committee amid its slowdown due to COVID-19, Singh said Ahluwalia has already submitted its preliminary report and the final report would be submitted in due course after taking into consideration the recommendations of six expert groups in different field constituted by him.

Asked to comment on the functioning of his government with regard to observations made by Rajya Sabha members Partap Singh Bajwa and Shamsher Singh Dullo, the chief minister categorically said they should “mind their own business” rather than making baseless statements.

On the issue of the fulfilment of party’s 2017, pre-poll promises, the chief minister said he had been personally reviewing the progress on implementation of each and every promise made to the people. PTI CHS VSD RAX RAX RAX