Gurmeet Singh Khudian, Balkar Singh inducted as cabinet ministers

Chandigarh: The Bhagwant Mann government in Punjab on Wednesday expanded its cabinet by inducting AAP MLAs Gurmeet Singh Khudian and Balkar Singh as ministers.

Governor Banwarilal Purohit administered oath of office and secrecy to the new ministers at the Raj Bhavan here. Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann was also present.

While Khudian was allocated agriculture and farmers’ welfare, animal husbandry, fisheries, dairy development and food processing portfolios, Balkar got local government and parliamentary affairs portfolios.

Khudian, the first-time MLA, had joined the AAP after quitting the Congress in 2021.   Balkar Singh, 60, is an MLA from Kartarpur reserved seat in Jalandhar. Singh, a former police officer, had joined the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in 2021 after he retired from the Punjab Police. Singh is also the first time legislator.

Kartarpur assembly seat falls in the Jalandhar Parliamentary constituency from where AAP candidate Sushil Rinku registered victory in the bypoll this month. Rinku had secured maximum lead from the Kartarpur assembly segment out of total nine assembly segments in the Jalandhar parliamentary constituency.

It is the third cabinet expansion of the 14-month old Mann-led government in Punjab.

In July 2022, the Bhagwant Mann government had carried out its first cabinet expansion, inducting five party legislators.

In January this year, senior AAP leader and Patiala Rural MLA Dr Balbir Singh was sworn-in as cabinet minister, after Fauja Singh Sarari tendered his resignation.

On Tuesday, Inderbir Singh Nijjar had tendered his resignation as minister on “personal grounds”.

Chief Minister Mann on Tuesday had sent Nijjar’s resignation to the governor for acceptance.

Nijjar’s resignation came after his reported statement seeking to back Barjinder Singh Hamdard, the editor-in-chief of Punjabi newspaper Ajit. Hamdard is under the vigilance bureau scanner over the alleged misuse of funds in the execution of Rs 315 crore Jang-E-Azadi memorial in Jalandhar.

Currently, the strength of the Mann-led cabinet is 15, including the chief minister.

With the induction of two new ministers and following resignation of Nijjar, the strength of the cabinet will be 16. There are a total of 18 berths in the cabinet.

Later talking to reporters, both Balkar Singh and Khudian thanked Mann and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal for their induction as ministers.