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Six Cong MLAs made Pb CM's advisors; oppn dubs it as 'daylight robbery' of exchequer

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: September 10, 2019  | 22:01 IST

(Eds: With quotes of CM, oppn leaders) Chandigarh, Sep 10 (PTI) The Punjab government has appointed six minister-rank advisors to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, prompting the opposition to describe the move as a bid to circumvent the constitutional cap on the Cabinet size and a “daylight robbery” of the state exchequer. An advocate too moved the Punjab and Haryana High court on Tuesday, challenging the MLAs' appointment as minister-rank advisors, contending that it breached provisions of the Constitution (91th Amendment) Act, 2003, which limits the Cabinet strength to 15 per cent of total strength of the state legislature. The MLAs' appointment as CM's advisors is being seen as an attempt to placate those who failed to get a berth in the last Cabinet reshuffle in the state. Five Congress MLAs will now get the status of Cabinet ministers and the sixth that of a minister of state, officials said on Tuesday. Four MLAs -- Kushaldeep Singh Dhillon of Faridkot, Singh Raja Warring of Gidderbaha, Sangat Singh Gilzian of Urmur and Inderbir Singh Bolaria of Amritsar South -- have been designated as advisors (political) while the fifth one, Kuljeet Singh Nagra of Fatehgarh Sahib, has been designated as advisor (planning), officials said. All the five have been given the Cabinet rank and status, they said. The sixth one -- Tarsem Singh DC of Attari -- has been given the designation of Advisor (planning) with the rank of a minister of state, the officials said. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, defended the appointments, saying it was necessary for him to stay connected with the people. The new office bearers would give him timely feedback and keep him apprising regularly of the aspirations of those living in the state's 12,700 villages, as well of youths, said the chief minister in Sultanpur Lodhi, where he held a special Cabinet meet on Tuesday. The new advisors' input will help the government in policy formulation, he added. The opposition SAD, BJP and AAP strongly condemned the state government's move, claiming it is aimed at circumventing Constitutional provisions. “It is clearly a step to circumvent the law whereby the strength of ministers cannot exceed 15 per cent of the total members of the House. With the appointment of political advisers, the government is putting additional financial burden on the state exchequer,” BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh said. SAD leader and former minister Bikram Singh Majithia said the government chose to burden the state exchequer despite claiming to have no money to give mid-day meals and scholarships to scheduled caste students, to clear the pending Dearness Allowance of employees and provide relief to flood hit areas. “It seems the Congress is only interested in saving its government from immediate collapse and in this process, had decided to fritter away even the scarce resources of the State to its party men," said Majithia. "This amounts to a day light robbery of the state exchequer,” he added. With the latest addition, the number of political appointees in the government has risen to 26 including twelve advisors, four political secretaries and nine officers on special duty, he said. Majithia said the appointments were also "illegal and against constitutional norms". “Legislators can't hold office of profit which these appointments are,” he claimed. Aam Aadmi Party MLA Aman Arora asked what the CM himself would would do iof he needed such a large number of advisors. “If you appoint so many advisors with ministerial ranks, then, CM Sahib, what would you do? What would your council of ministers and bureaucracy would do?” he asked. Congress MLA from Gidderbaha Amrinder Singh Raja Warring, who was appointed advisor, meanwhile, said the new advisors would shun benefits and privileges as ministers and would continue to get only what they get as MLAs. “We will not take any benefit which is given to a Cabinet minister,” he said. With 117 members in the Punjab assembly, the maximum strength of the council of ministers can be 18. Including the chief minister, the Punjab government has already 17 ministers in its Cabinet. The chief minister's move came amid resentment among some Congress legislators over several issues, including denied ministerial berths. Some MLAs are also upset with the state government over its handling of cases of desecration of the Guru Granth Sahib in the state in 2015. PTI VSD CHS RAX RAX RAX

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