The overenthusiastic cricketer-turned-politician and current Punjab Local Government Minister, Navjot Singh Sidhu, has been under fire from his Cabinet colleagues who appear to be annoyed with his style of working.
One trigger point was Sidhu’s much hyped mining policy which his Cabinet colleague and state Rural Development minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa objected to, saying that he was even not invited to the meeting when the report of the final policy was tabled before Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Bajwa alleged that the policy’s report was based on individual suggestions as other members of the sub-committee formed to frame the new mining policy, Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and special invitee Revenue Minister Sukhbinder Singh Sarkaria, were also not present when it was tabled.
Sidhu is the chairman of the sub-committee on mining policy. Sources said objections raised by the committee members is the major reason why the new mining policy has been shelved for the time being.
Amarinder Singh is learnt to have told Congress chief Rahul Gandhi that Sidhu needs to slow down and his actions were causing an uproar within the ruling party in the state. Sources said many party leaders approached the CM to complain that they were upset with Sidhu. They included Rajinder Beri, Sushil Rinku and Avtar Henry Junior, besides the parliamentarian from Jalandhar, Chaudhary Santokh Singh.
These leaders had reportedly said Sidhu’s recent action against illegal constructions in Jalandhar would annoy voters at a time when the government was looking at a policy for regularising illegal constructions. Similarly, Environment and Education minister OP Soni has criticised the crackdown against illegal construction in Jalandhar by Sidhu. Addressing mediapersons in Jalandhar, Soni suggested that Sidhu should have waited for the implementation of the one-time settlement policy.
However, he promptly justified the minister’s action when told that Sidhu had cracked the whip against the colonies which were being established with the aim of getting them regularised under the same policy, and not the constructed houses.
Soni said civic bodies have 70 to 80 per cent role in spreading pollution in the state. The environment minister said he was going to write to all the civic bodies to ensure that sewage treatment plants in their area are in working condition.
Sources said during a meeting with the CM, Sidhu’s policy on unauthorised colonies was not well received by his Cabinet colleagues who pointed out several flaws in the draft prepared by Sidhu and his officers. Soni is learnt to have pointed out that the composition fee of Rs 2,000 per square foot for commercial property and Rs 500 per square foot for residential structures was too high.
Food and Civil Supply Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu reportedly pointed out the absurdity in allowing the benefit of the scheme to commercial buildings on encroached land on the condition that they buy parking space near their buildings.
“In a fresh meeting on policy of illegal colonies and unauthorised structures on Thursday, we have given our sugessions. The comprehensive policy will be tabled before the Cabinet for final approval,” he said.
The minister, however, said, there was nothing odd with the earlier draft of the policy that was mooted by the Local Government Minister. “But we wanted to add some other sugesstions considering public issues,” Ashu told The Statesman.
Earlier, Sidhu had raided the house of Patiala Mayor Sanjeev Bittu following a media report that he had allotted tenders for works already done at his official residence. Also, he scrapped recent recruitments of Shivalik Pharmacy College in Nangal following allegations that 48 appointments were given to those linked to Congress leaders. Nangal is a part of Anandpur Sahib Assembly segment, represented by Speaker Rana Kanwarpal Singh.Previously, Sidhu had boycotted the Amritsar mayoral polls because he felt he had been ‘ignored’ in the process for elections to local bodies by the state government. He said being the minister of local government he was entitled to be consulted during the month-long process of civic polls in Amritsar, Jalandhar and Patiala. He claimed that he was not called for any discussion on the elections even at the party level.