Chandigarh: Two more Indian National Congress (INC) legislators resigned from their posts in the party’s Punjab unit today as resentment grew among MLAs for being denied a ministerial berth in the expansion of state Cabinet.
Surjit Singh Dhiman, the MLA from Amargarh in Sangrur district, and Nathu Ram from Balluana in Fazilka, tendered their resignations from party positions to Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Sunil Jakhar.
The resignation came just hours before the swearing in here of the nine new ministers, whose names were announced yesterday after a meeting between Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and INC president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi.
Another party legislator, Sangat Singh Gilzian, resigned yesterday from All India Congress Committee (AICC) and as a PPCC vice president over the issue.
Nathu Ram announced that he has resigned as PPCC general secretary because the party had ignored the Dalit community.
Surjit Singh Dhiman’s resignation from the PPCC vice president’s post was announced by his son Jaswinder Dhiman.
Nathu Ram represents the Dalit community and Dhiman is from the backward classes.
“Dalits are feeling humiliated by being denied a ministerial slot in the cabinet expansion,” Nathu Ram, a two-time MLA, said.
“Dalits account for 34% of Punjab population and if we are to consider this percentage, at least five ministers should be Dalits in the cabinet,” he said.
Surjit Singh Dhiman’s son said the party had “ignored” the backward classes.
“Not even a single minister belongs to a backward class in the cabinet. Out of the backward class population in the state, 14% belong to Ramgarhia community. At least one person belonging the to a backward community should have been given the post,” Jaswinder Dhiman said.
Besides the resignations, two other INC MLAs today expressed disappointment over the Cabinet expansion.
Khanna MLA Gurkirat Singh Kotli, who is the grandson of former Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, said “old and traditional” families that have won elections for the party should have been considered for Cabinet berths.
“I meet all the criteria for becoming a minister but a junior person has been inducted. I fought three elections and won twice,” said Navtej Singh Cheema, the MLA from Sultanpur Lodhi in Kapurthala district.
Cheema said he was disappointed that the Doaba region was “ignored.”
“Only one ministerial berth has been given to Doaba (Sunder Shan Arora) and that too represents the Kandi area. The main Doaba region comprising Jalandhar and Kapurthala, which is known as the NRI belt, is completely ignored,” Cheema said.
“Whenever Congress won seats from the Doaba region, it formed the government,” he said.
He said the party picked three ministers from one district but had ignored Doaba.
With the induction of Dera Baba Nanak MLA Sukhjinder Randhawa in the Cabinet, Gurdaspur district now has three ministers.
Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa (Fatehgarh Churian) and Aruna Chaudhary (Dinanagar) already represented the district in the ministry.
Amritsar also has three ministers now with the induction of O P Soni (Amritsar Central) and Sukhbinder Sarkaria (Raja Sansi). Navjot Singh Sidhu from Amritsar East was already a minister.
Cheema said he could not understand why his name was “dropped at the last moment” and will take up the matter with the Chief Minister.
Meanwhile, Kotli argued in favour of Punjab’s “traditional” families.
“Old and traditional families that have been winning continuously and worked hard for the party should have also been considered,” he said.
Kotli’s grandfather Beant Singh was chief minister and his father Tej Partap Singh was a minister in previous INC government.
But he added everyone will accept the decision taken by the party high command and Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.