Punjab finance minister sacked


Chandigarh : Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal was Wednesday dismissed from the state cabinet headed by his uncle and Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal due to his recent statements regarding the state’s debt burden.

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A spokesman of the chief minister’s office said the move comes after the decision of the Shiromani Akali Dal’s disciplinary committee to suspend Manpreet Badal from the party for his “persistent acts of indiscipline” and opposing the “publicly-endorsed pro-people policies of the party and the government”.

“After his suspension from the party, his continuance as a member of the council of ministers had become constitutionally, morally and politically untenable,” he added.

Officials said the communication regarding dropping of Manpreet Badal from the cabinet had been sent to Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil for acceptance.

The finance minister had made statements regarding the Rs.700 billion (Rs.70,000 crore) debt burden on the state and demanded that the ruling Akali Dal do away with subsidies and freebies like free power to farmers to enable the state get out of a debt trap.

The statements had brought Manpreet Badal in direct confrontation with his first cousin and Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the Akali Dal president.

While Sukhbir Badal is the son of the chief minister, Manpreet Badal is the chief minister’s nephew.

Manpreet Badal was suspended from the membership of the Akali Dal Tuesday after a recommendation by a disciplinary committee of the party.

The committee directed the finance minister not to make any statements before the media. It also directed him to appear before the committee here Oct 20 to give his explanation.

He had claimed that the central government had extended a conditional offer of waiving nearly Rs.35,000-crore debt.

Following the controversy, senior Akali leaders openly demanded that the finance minister be dropped from the government or divested of his post.

Sukhbir Badal and the state’s chief secretary had even claimed that no offer had been received by the Punjab government for a debt waiver from the central government.

Manpreet Badal was cornered within the party in the last one week following the controversy.

Manpreet Badal, 48, is an honours graduate from Delhi’s St Stephen’s college and studied law from London. He is known for keeping a low profile and not even taking armed security cover from the Punjab Police.