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Amarinder Singh led the Congress party from the front in Punjab
Amarinder Singh led the Congress party from the front in Punjab

Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee (PPCC) chief Capt Amarinder Singh was sworn in as the state’s 26th chief minister at the Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh on Thursday. This is Capt Amarinder’s second stint as Punjab CM. The oath of office was administered by Punjab governor VP Singh Badnore. The constitutional cap of 15% ministers in the 117 – member House allows the new Congress government to induct a maximum of 18 Cabinet members, including the chief minister.

Eight cabinet ministers were also sworn in after him.

Amarinder, who recently turned 75, was the Congress party’s projected chief ministerial candidate. He won from the Patiala seat in the Assembly elections. The former royal has been largely credited for the Congress party’s win in Punjab where it got a more-than-comfortable victory, winning 77 of 117 seats. This is his second stint as chief minister.

The chief minister chose 10.16am as the time for taking the oath as it was considered auspicious. Sworn in along with Amarinder were cabinet ministers Navjot SIngh Sidhu+ , Manpreet Badal, Brahm Mohindra, Charanjit Channi, Rana Gurjit and Tripat Bajwa; Aruna Choudhary and Razia Sultana were sworn in as ministers of state with independent charge.

Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh were among the top Congress leaders who attended the swearing-in ceremony. Governor VP Singh Badnore administered the oath of office and secrecy to Amarinder at Raj Bhawan in Chandigarh.

On Sunday, Amarinder emphasized that the new government won’t go on any witch hunts. “No vendetta politics no victimisation, if name comes in investigation we’ll see,” Amarinder said on being asked if action will be taken against Bikram Majithia, who has been accused of running a drug mafia.

Punjab has an extremely serious problem with drug addiction.  “Psychiatrists needed to tackle drug menace. Two issues require major attention one is health other is education,” Amarinder said.

Punjab was a big success for Congress. As many as 41 of the 117 members of the new Punjab Assembly won by a margin of over 20,000 votes, including 12 by over 30,000 votes in the just-concluded Vidhan Sabha polls. These included 30 from Congress, seven from Aam Aadmi Party, 3 from SAD and one Independent. While Doaba and Majha regions have 15 such candidates, including 14 from Congress, one from SAD, in Malwa region, out of 26 candidates,10 are from AAP, SAD and Independent from Lok Insaaf Party.

PPCC Chief Captain Amarinder Singh from Patiala is the only candidate, who won by a huge victory margin of 52,407 votes followed by his party colleague Navjot Singh Sidhu from Amritsar East, who came second with 42,809 votes.

From Doaba, the Congress candidate, who boasted of huge victory margins included Avtar Bawa Henry from Jalandhar North with 32,291 votes, the highest in the region.

Raj Kuma Verka from Chabbewal in Hoshiarpur district won by 29,261 votes, Pargat Singh by 29,124 votes, Rana Gurjit Singh from Kapurthala by 28,817 votes, Rajinder Beri of Jalandhar Central by 24,078 votes and Rajnish Babbi from Mukerian with 23,126 votes.

But no one from AAP and SAD won by 20,000 votes from this region.

The other winners with over 20,000 vote margin from Malwa included fromer Punjab CM Parkash Singh Badal from Lambi by 22,770 votes, former finance minister Parminder Dhidsa from Lehra with 26,815 votes. AAP’s wManjit Singh Bilaspur from Nihalsinghwala constituency bwon by 27,5574 votes, Amarjit Singh from Roopnagar by 23,707 votes, Parimal Singh from Bahadur by 20,784 votes, Nazar Singh from Mansa by 20,469 votes, Sarabjit Kaur Maunke from Jagraon by 25,576 vots, Kulwant Singh from Mehal Kalan by 27,064 votes.

Other Congress candidates with over 20,000 margins included Congress’s Rana Kanwarpal Singh from Anandpur Sahib (23,881), Balbir Sidhu from SAS Nagar (27,873), Kuljit Singh from Fatehgarh Sahib (23,867), Gurkirat Kotli from Khanna (20591), Surinder Dawar at Ludhiana Central (20,480 votes), Lakhwinder Singh Lakhi from Payal (21496 votes), Sukhjit Singh Kaka at Dharamkot (22,218), Kulbir Singh at Zira (23,701), Satkar Kaur at Ferozepur Rural (21,380) and Parminder Singh Pinki from Ferozepur City (29,587 votes).

Though Punjab was a great success for the Congress party, it made a huge mistake in Goa.

The Congress in Goa is in doldrums. Not only did the party lose an opportunity to form a government due to the slow paced reaction of the party, but now Congress leader and Valpoi MLA Vishwajeet Rane has decided to resign from the party.

He also abstained from voting during the trust vote that was held on the floor of the Goa legislative Assembly.

Manohar Parrikar became Goa CM as Congress missed the chanceA very disgruntled Vishwajeet Rane said that “people will never ever give a mandate to the Congress again. Congress is heading for a vertical split. Senior leaders who should have helped form the government were busy enjoying in Goa. Is this is what should have been done?”

Rane went on to say that he will step down from his MLA’ship and will go to the people again as they are ones who told him to resign. “The Congress is not a party for me,” Rane added.

Meanwhile, the 16 other MLAs of the Congress are very upset with the lackadaisical attitude of the AICC observers and will now be writing to Rahul Gandhi.  A very upset Jennifer Monseratte said, “They have definitely delayed in communication and we suffered because of that. We will definitely write to Rahul Gandhi.”

Manohar Parrikar, however, enjoys the support of 22 MLAs and the Speaker too is from the BJP. Churchill Alemao of the Nationalist Congress Party, who used to be a Congress loyalist before and has also served as the chief minister of Goa, said that “I have been badly treated by the Congress. I have gone with the BJP because there is some respect there. It doesn’t matter who the CM is, be it Parrikar or anybody, but I am not with the Congress.”

The big test for Parrikar will not be to elect himself from a constituency and sources say that he may fight from the Mapusa seat or take the challenge and fight from the Panjim seat which was his previous constituency.

On Wednesday, the Congress had dubbed the BJP’s Goa strategy as “unconstitutional” – alleging that the central government had influenced governor Mridula Sinha’s decision in its favour. Party leader Digvijaya Singh even accused the BJP of indulging in horse-trading to reach the majority mark.

The saffron party, however, rejected the allegations.

Nitin Gadkari claimed the BJP’s game-plan was put into action on the night of March 11 – shortly after the results of the assembly polls came out. “I reached Goa late that night and entered into talks with MGP and GFP leaders. They had some conditions, including the appointment of defence minister Manohar Parrikar as the Goa chief minister, which we accepted. The next morning, we met the governor with evidence that the BJP-led alliance had the required strength to form the next government,” he added.

Gadkari said the credit for the party’s success in the coastal state goes to BJP president Amit Shah. “It was 7 pm (when I met Shah at his residence). We discussed the political situation of Goa in detail. Our strength was only 13. I told him that we do not have the support we need,” he recalled telling Shah.

However, the BJP president would not take “no” for an answer, and insisted that Gadkari give it a try anyway.

Gadkari, who is also the Union minister for road transport and highways, said the Congress was too busy resolving internal disputes regarding the appointment of its chief ministerial candidate while the BJP was out sealing alliances with local parties as part of its strategy to take the reins of the state administration.