In a move opposed by the opposition BJP for its unethical methods, the Punjab government has appointed six minister-rank advisors to Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, reported PTI. The appointment is termed by the opposition BJP as an attempt to circumvent the constitutional cap on the size of state's Cabinet.
Six MLAs have been appointed to the posts in the Punjab government in all, out of which, five are in the rank and status of the Cabinet Minister and one is in the rank and status of the Minister of State.
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 the advisors (political) while the fifth one, Kuljeet Singh Nagra of Fatehgarh Sahib, has been designated as the 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 the Advisor (planning) with the rank of Minister of State, the officials said.
These recently appointed advisors are going to enjoy the same privileges and allowances as that of a Minister.
The opposition, on the other hand, has claimed that the move is aimed at circumventing the Constitution (91th amendment) Act, 2003, as the amendment to Article 164 says that the total number of ministers in the Chief Minister's cabinet, including the CM, cannot exceed 15% of the assembly strength.
Since the Punjab Assembly has 117 members, 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. This was echoed by the BJP national secretary Tarun Chugh, "It is clearly a step to circumvent the law whereby the strength of ministers cannot exceed 15% of the total members of the House. With the appointment of the political advisers, the government is putting additional financial burden on the state exchequer."
Congress leaders placated
The Congress government's move came amid resentment among some Congress legislators over several issues which primarily included denial of ministerial berths. Thus, the development is also being seen as an attempt to placate those who failed to get a berth in the last Cabinet reshuffle in the state.
In 2016, during the Akali-Dal and BJP coalition government in the state, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had quashed the appointments of the Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPS) in the State. The post of the CPS was being used to placate those MLAs who could not be given Cabinet berths due to the ceiling limit.
At that point of time, Amarinder Singh had reportedly stated, "Obviously, the Badal Government tried to circumvent the constitutional and legislative procedure by appointing the CPSs without following a proper procedure and hence, these were expected to be scrapped."