Punjab minister’s resignation accepted
Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday accepted the resignation of power and irrigation minister, Rana Gurjit Singh, from the council of ministers.
The chief minister forwarded the resignation to Punjab Governor V.P. Singh Badnore for necessary action, while taking over the crucial portfolios himself.
“Captain Amarinder has taken charge of Rana Gurjit’s portfolios for the time being,” said a spokesperson for the Chief Minister.
After dilly-dallying over the issue for days, the Congress on Thursday accepted the resignation of the controversial cabinet minister, who was facing allegations of corruption and money laundering.
Amarinder Singh, who met Congress party president Rahul Gandhi in Delhi on Thursday, confirmed that Rana Gurjit’s resignation had been accepted.
“His resignation has been accepted [by the Congress president],” Amarinder Singh, who visibly looked upset by the development, told media in New Delhi.
The chief minister said he had discussed the issue of the resignation, which the minister had submitted ten days ago, with Gandhi and then decided to accept the same. Congress sources said the party high command was adamant that Rana Gurjit had to go.
“In his resignation, Rana Gurjit had said that though he had not been associated with his family business for the past ten years, the controversy surrounding it in recent months had left him with no option but to tender his resignation in the interest of his party. He did not want the issue to mar the good work done by the Congress government in Punjab and had, in the bigger interest of his party and government, chosen to step down,” Amarinder Singh said.
Gurjit said on Thursday that he accepted the decision of the party high command and the chief minister with all humility. “I have always been a Congressman and will die as a Congressman only,” he said while interacting with reporters after his resignation was accepted.
Asserting that he had submitted his resignation on “moral grounds”, he maintained that his stand will soon be vindicated and eventually the truth shall prevail.”
“Truth cannot be suppressed for long, no matter how strongly and repeatedly a lie may be told,” he said while maintaining that he had not committed any wrong or illegal act.
Considered one of the most powerful ministers in Punjab and a close aide of Amarinder Singh, Gurjit, a billionaire businessman with business interests in liquor and sugar manufacturing, had courted controversies in the past few months in the multi-crore sand mining auction done in the ten-month-old Amarinder Singh government.
People associated with Gurjit and his companies, including his former cook, had bagged multi-crore rupee sand mining contracts in May last year. It was alleged that these people were just fronts for the minister and his companies and that the sand mining contracts were picked up through the ‘benami’ (proxy) route.
Gurjit had been facing immense pressure to quit despite a one-man commission headed by retired justice J.S. Narang giving him a clean chit.
The chief minister had steadfastly defended Gurjit despite the corruption controversies. Gurjit’s son Inder Pratap Singh was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday in Jalandhar over allegations of raising capital to the tune of 1 billion rupees abroad without taking permission from the Reserve Bank of India.
The Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal, who were seeking the resignation of Gurjit following the allegations of corruption and conflict of interest against him, on Thursday demanded that he be booked for corruption and that all sand mining auctions be cancelled.
AAP leader and Leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, welcomed Gurjit’s resignation and said that many more skeletons would tumble out of the closet of the Congress government in Punjab.