CHANDIGARH: The Punjab cabinet ministers versus the state chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh face-off took a new turn on Monday with two of the ministers flatly refusing to attend any meeting in which the top bureaucrat would be present. Finance minister Manpreet Singh Badal and technical educational & industrial training Charanjit Singh Channi conveyed this to chief minister Punjab Captain Amarinder Singh at the meeting of council of ministers on Monday.
While the chief secretary wasn’t present at the meeting to discuss changes in the excise policy, home secretary Satish Chandra, the second senior-most bureaucrat in the state, was there.
After taking up this “unofficial agenda”, the cabinet authorized the chief minister to take a decision on changes in the excise policy in wake of the lockdown period. There was no discussion on the one-point agenda for the meeting.
Manpreet: Up to CM if he wants to call CS for meeting
Speaking after the meeting, Manpreet said, “The unofficial matter discussed was that the behaviour and body language of Karan Avtar Singh with the Cabinet at the pre-Cabinet meet on Saturday was not in keeping with the office he holds. I moved a proposal (today) that in case he continues as chief secretary then it will be impossible for me to be a part of the Cabinet meeting or any other meeting. The chief minister then asked other ministers and Channi seconded my view.” He added, “We were asked to bring this on record and the Cabinet did it unanimously. We left it to the chief minister whether he wants to call the official for future meetings.”
The ministers’ “boycott” poses procedural hassles as the chief secretary is supposed to coordinate the cabinet meetings, according to the rule book. Manpreet stressed that the entire episode should not be perceived as an ego issue. “This decision has been taken in the highest interest of the state,” he said. Channi, too, said that the chief secretary’s attitude towards the ministers on Saturday was not right. “Manpreet and I raised the matter with the CM and left the final decision to him,” he said.
Referring to Saturday’s meeting, Channi said, “That day, I was having a word with the chief secretary and it was he who lost his cool. There was no walkout by the ministers and we only ended the meeting and said the issue of excise policy will be discussed with the chief minister.”
Channi also took exception to the system of home delivery of liquor.
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