Published On: Wed, May 20th, 2020

Punjab CM reaches out to MLAs sulking over Chief Secy issue

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday met with some of the legislators who had objected to the “unacceptable behaviour” of the chief secretary during a meeting over excise revenue.

Punjab Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh

Cabinet minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, MLAs Amarinder Singh Raja Warring, Pargat Singh and Sangat Singh Gilzian met the chief minister, who is learnt to have invited them for a meeting over lunch at his Siswan farmhouse near here.

State Congress president Sunil Jakhar was also present at the meeting, Randhawa said.

According to an official statement, the chief minister invited them for an informal lunch, during which discussions were held on the prevailing COVID-19 crisis and the prolonged lockdown in the state.

Randhawa told a news conference that he had raised with the chief minister the issue of Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh”s alleged “unacceptable behaviour” with ministers during a meeting held here a fortnight ago.

“When he (CM) asked about the chief secretary issue, we told him that the chief secretary”s attitude was not right and the way he spoke (with ministers) cannot be tolerated by anybody,” Randhawa said.

The chief minister was told about what had happened on that day and why ministers had walked out of the meeting, Randhawa said, adding that the CM assured them to look into the matter.

The crisis was triggered by a showdown on May 9 between two ministers and the chief secretary at a meeting where the state”s post-lockdown excise policy was being discussed.

After Technical Education Minister Charanjit Singh Channi opposed any relief for liquor vend owners, the chief secretary allegedly made some “curt remarks”.

Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Channi had then walked out. Later, Badal and Channi had even announced not to attend any meeting where the chief secretary was present.

Though the chief secretary was divested of the additional charge of the financial commissioner of taxation, at least 10 Congress legislators, led by Warring, had sought a probe against the chief secretary after blaming him for excise revenue loss.

Warring said on Wednesday that it was the responsibility of the chief secretary who was heading the department for the “downfall” in revenue.

“I think leakage is there. Hundred percent, there is problem somewhere,” said Warring when he asked whether he blamed illegal smuggling for revenue loss.

Pargat Singh said there was no harm in setting up a corporation for excise if the state”s revenue goes up with it. He had reportedly lashed out at his own government earlier, demanding setting up an excise corporation to boost excise revenue and stop liquor smuggling.

Meanwhile, a government statement said the chief minster had invited only a handful of party leaders due to the social-distancing norms amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

PTI

About the Author