Amarinder Singh was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Punjab for a second time on Thursday.
He was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore at an impressive ceremony at the Punjab Raj Bhawan here.
Amarinder, a former Army captain, took the oath in English.
This is the second time that Amarinder, 75, has become Chief Minister of the state. He was earlier in office from 2002 to 2007.
Nine ministers, including two women, were also inducted.
The ministers inducted included Brahm Mohindra, Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Badal, Charanjit Singh Channi, Rana Gurjeet Singh, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot and Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa.
The two women inducted are Aruna Chaudhary and Razia Sultana. Both will be ministers of state with independent charge.
Top Congress leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, attended the ceremony.
Prominent faces at the ceremony included Anand Sharma, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Kapil Sibal, Raj Babbar, Ambika Soni, Rajeev Shukla, Sachin Pilot, Rajya Sabha MP Subhash Chandra, Ashok Gehlot, Asha Kumari.
Amarinder’s family members, including his wife and former Union Minister Preneet Kaur, were also present.
Amarinder’s friend from Pakistan, Aroosa Alam, also attended the swearing-in ceremony.
The swearing-in ceremony was kept simple, as desired by Amarinder Singh, in view of Punjab’s financial health.
The low-key swearing-in opted for by Amarinder, who comes from the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, is in sharp contrast to crores of rupees spent by his predecessor Parkash Singh Badal for similar events in 2007 and 2012.
The Punjab government is believed to be under a massive debt of over Rs 200,000 crore, as claimed by the Congress during campaigning.
The Congress swept the elections with 77 seats in the 117-member assembly.
Within hours of assuming office, the Congress government in Punjab ordered the transfers and postings of 12 top bureaucrats, appointing 1984-batch IAS officer Karan Avtar Singh as the new Chief Secretary.
The new Chief Secretary — who assumed charge on Thursday – replaces 1982-batch IAS officer Sarvesh Kaushal.
Kaushal has been made Special Chief Secretary-cum-Director General of Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration.
The new Chief Secretary will also act as Principal Secretary of the Departments of Personnel, General Administration and Vigilance as well as Investment Promotion.
Supreme Court lawyer Atul Nanda was appointed the new state Advocate General.
Himmat Singh has been posted as Special Chief Secretary, Horticulture, apart from Special Principal Secretary, Forests and Wildlife.
Karanbir Singh Sidhu has been posted as Special Chief Secretary, Revenue and Rehabilitation, and Irrigation, a state government spokesman said here.
Nirmaljeet Singh Kalsi has been posted as Additional Chief Secretary, Home Affairs and Justice.
He will also look after Agriculture and Removal of Grievances Departments. Kalsi will also be the Principal Resident Commissioner (Investment Promotion and Industrial Liaison) at Punjab Bhavan, New Delhi, and Additional Chief Secretary, Governance Reforms.
Satish Chandra has been posted as Additional Chief Secretary, Finance and Cooperation.
Tejveer Singh has been posted as Special Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister and Secretary, Information and Public Relations, and Secretary, Civil Aviation.
S.K. Sandhu has been posted as Additional Chief Secretary Social Security and Women and Children Development.
Anurag Agarwal has been posted as Financial Commissioner, Taxation.
Raji P. Shrivastava has been posted as Director, Mahatma Gandhi State Institute of Public Administration.
Vivek Pratap Singh has been posted as Excise and Taxation Commissioner.
Krishan Kumar has been posted as Secretary, Expenditure (Department of Finance), and Secretary, Personnel.
Amarinder Singh, who assumed charge of Punjab as Chief Minister for a second time, wears many hats and has accomplished himself in most of them.
Better known as a politician from Punjab, Amarinder Singh has varied interests. Coming from the erstwhile royal family of Patiala, he is still addressed as ‘Maharaja’ in some circles.
Amarinder Singh joined the Army in the 1960s and was a Captain. He has business interests and is an agriculturist and orchardist. Besides, he is an author, having written books on wars and Sikhs.
An alumnus of the Lawrence School-Sanawar (Kasauli Hills) and Doon School at Dehradun, Amarinder Singh has never hesitated in taking bold decisions in public and personal life.
Be it quitting as a Congress MP after being upset over “Operation Bluestar” of the Indian Army ordered by Indira Gandhi in 1984, even at the cost of affecting his personal relations with the Gandhi family; leaving the Shiromani Akali Dal in 1992 or more recently resigning his Amritsar Lok Sabha seat in November after a Supreme Court ruling on the Sutlej-Yamuna Link (SYL) Canal which was adverse to Punjab – Amarinder Singh has never been wary of taking a public stand on issues where the interests of home state Punjab or the Sikh community were involved.
Even on the personal front, Amarinder, 75, has not shied away from his relationship with his friend from Pakistan, Aroosa Alam, even when his opponents have tried to corner him on this.
Amarinder Singh remained Chief Minister of Punjab from 2002 to 2007. After coming down heavily on corruption in the early part of his tenure, Amarinder Singh drew flak later as a coterie of people around him took grip of things in Punjab and he ended up on the wrong side as the Congress lost the assembly polls to the Akalis in 2007.
In the 2012 assembly polls, Amarinder Singh led the party to another defeat. Both he and the party had to be out of power in Punjab for a decade.
But the 2017 assembly elections brought luck to Amarinder Singh and the Congress.
Up against tougher competition from the Akali Dal-BJP combine and the new entrant Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Amarinder Singh, who had announced last year that this assembly polls would be his last political battle, came out a winner not only in the state but also stopped the Congress’ losing streak in important states.
Having won the state despite the odds, Amarinder Singh is likely to stamp his authority in his new government. A sample of that was seen in his ministry where cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who was touted to be the Deputy Chief Minister and had the so-called blessings of the Congress high command, was inducted only as a cabinet minister, that too at the number three slot.
In his second innings in government, Amarinder Singh must prove himself all over again – having made big promises to the electorate like providing jobs to youth, waiving loans of farmers and eradicating drugs from Punjab.
With a BJP-led government at the centre, none of this is going to be easy for Amarinder Singh and his government. (IANS)