Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has accepted the resignation of Power and Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh Thursday following a meeting with AICC president Rahul Gandhi.
Rana Gurjit had submitted his resignation to Amarinder a few days ago. But the CM had not accepted it. He had left it to Rahul to take a call. The decision to accept the resignation was taken after a thorough discussion on the issue during a meeting of CM and Rahul Gandhi in Delhi today morning.
While sources said Amarinder was still backing his loyalist, Rahul and other leaders in the meeting are learnt to have prevailed upon the CM. PPCC President Sunil Jakhar, General Secretary Incharge Asha Kumari and AICC Secretary Harish Choudhary were also a part of the meeting.
"Rahul has made his stand on corruption clear. The party cannot be even perceived to be overlooking it,” Jakhar said after the meeting.
The feedback from state leaders and party’s central nominees to Rahul was that the allegations against Rana in sand mining auctions followed by summons to his son by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for raising funds abroad without mandatory permissions were damaging the party’s image.
Amarinder 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.
In a statement, the CM said Rana has cited in his resignation that though he had not been associated with his family business for the past 10 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.
Asked about the cabinet expansion, the CM said it would be done after the Ludhiana municipal council elections. "The new ministers will be a mix of youth and experience, with merit as the only criteria,” he said.
Considered one of the most powerful ministers in Punjab and a close aide of Amarinder Singh, Rana 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 10-month-old Amarinder Singh government.
People associated with Rana 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 the sand mining contracts were picked up through the 'benami' (proxy) route.
Rana Gurjit was facing much pressure to quit despite a one-man commission headed by retired Justice J. S. Narang giving him a clean chit.
The Chief Minister had been defending him despite the corruption controversies. Rana Gurjit's son Inder Pratap Singh was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday in Jalandhar over allegations of raising Rs 100 crore abroad without taking permission from the Reserve Bank of India.
The Aam Aadmi Party and Shiromani Akali Dal, who were seeking the resignation of Rana 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 the resignation and said that many more skeletons would tumble out of the closet of the Congress government in Punjab.