Chandigarh, May 11, 2020 –
A ‘tug of war’ between Punjab Cabinet ministers and the Chief Minister’s ‘blue-eyed’ Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh over the liquor policy intensified with straightforward Finance Minister Manpreet Badal on Monday announcing that he won’t attend a meeting where the bureaucrat was present.
Emerging out of the Cabinet meeting here, presided over by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in the absence of the Chief Secretary, Badal was categorically clear in saying that he, along with his colleague Charanjit Singh Channi, apprised the Chief Minister of their decision to boycott any meeting which the Chief Secretary attends.
“I have given a proposal (in the Cabinet) that if the Chief Secretary continues, it will be an impossible for me to sit either in that Cabinet or in that meeting in which Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh is present,” Badal told the media.
Without mincing words, he said: “The Chief Minister asked his entire Cabinet about the proposal…. even Charanjit Singh Channi said he won’t be able to participate in that meeting where the Chief Secretary is present.”
The Finance Minister said he took umbrage over the remarks of the Chief Secretary against his colleague Channi.
The ministers and the bureaucrat sparred in last meeting on Saturday ahead of the Cabinet meeting on Monday. It was called by Chief Secretary-cum-Financial Commissioner (Taxation) Karan Avtar Singh amid the presence of Chief Minster’s Chief Principal Secretary Suresh Kumar and Chief Minister’s Principal Secretary Tejvir Singh, among others.
At the meeting, Badal and Channi had a spat with the Chief Secretary, who was accused of favouring the liquor lobby, severely impacting the state’s revenue.
In that meeting, Badal took the lead and staged a walkout. Others followed him despite the Chief Secretary being apologetic.
About the Cabinet meeting, Badal, who asserted that he stand by his actions, said the Cabinet authorised the Chief Minister, who also holds the Excise portfolio, to take a call on the liquor policy.
He said the Chief Minister was authorised to tweak the excise policy in wake of the 36 business days lost due to the curfew.
A senior minister said at the onset of the Cabinet meeting the Chief Minister asked his Council of Ministers to bring on record that they had no faith in the Chief Secretary.
At the same time, Amarinder Singh advised his colleagues to express their reservations rather than staging a walkout from the meeting.
Firing potshots at the bureaucrat on Twitter, Congress legislator Amrinder Singh Raja Warring questioned the Chief Secretary regarding “the involvement of his son in running a distillery in Kapurthala as a partner with a top liquor contractor”. (Agency)