Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann Sets Up Advisory Body to Help State, Oppn Says Govt Being Outsourced

Raising eyebrows in the political circles, Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has set up an advisory body to assist the Punjab government in “matters of public importance pertaining to public administration”.

A letter issued by the chief secretary, Vijay Kumar Janjua, stated: “The Chief Minister has undertaken review of the working of the government at various levels and is of the view that a body (temporary in nature) is required to tender advise to Punjab government in matters of public importance pertaining to public administration.”

The committee will consist of a chairman and other members, if any, who may be required from time to time, as appointed by the government. The committee is set up on an ad hoc and temporary basis.

However, the letter stated that the office of chairman and members, if any, will not be entitled to any compensation, remuneration, or perks of any kind or nomenclature in respect of such appointment. The chairman and members shall not even be entitled to payments that are compensatory in nature, including any reimbursements.

Although the government is still to announce the name of the chairman or the members, but one of the names doing the rounds for heading the body is that of senior Aam Aadmi Party leader and Punjab in-charge Raghav Chadha.

Sources said that Chadha was at the forefront of the party’s campaign during the state assembly elections and is also considered close to party convenor and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. “He could be the right person as he knows the situation on ground,” commented a leader.

But the constitution of the advisory body has already sparked off a controversy. Even as the opposition has been targeted Mann for taking important decisions at the “behest” of Kejriwal, the advisory body and likely appointment of Chadha has given fresh ammunition to them for targeting the Punjab government.

Reacting to this decision, Punjab Congress president Amarinder Singh Raja Warring questioned the legality of the proposed ‘advisory committee’ to be headed by a chairman, who may eventually end up as the de facto CM of the state.

In a statement, Warring said: “It amounts to creating an extra-constitutional authority without any accountability that will undermine the constitutional mandate of an elected government and its cabinet. In the past, the governments have set up advisory committees, but these were with specific and limited period and purpose and did not have overarching control and authority like the one that is being proposed to be set up by the government”.

“If ad hoc advisory committee has to be appointed, what is the Cabinet for? Or AAP wants to outsource governance,” he asked, adding there are strong apprehensions among people that the elected government will be made subordinate and subservient to the proposed ‘advisory committee’, which cannot be acceptable in a constitutional democracy.

Leader of the Opposition Partap Singh Bajwa said, “Through its notification, the government has decided to constitute a temporary body to advise the Government on matters of public importance in public administration.”

“In other words, Chief Minister of Punjab, Bhagwant Singh Mann will appoint Raghav Chadha as the Regent of Punjab. It is a direct reflection of the incapability of the Chief Minister to protect the interests of every Punjabi. In a roundabout fashion, the AAP Government in Delhi now has a legitimate way to take control over the governing of the State, further reinforcing the image that the Hon’ble Chief Minister of Punjab is now a subservient puppet of the Chief Minister of Delhi. ”

“This pattern of the Government of Punjab to hand over governance to the AAP Delhi first began with the knowledge sharing agreement signed with the Delhi Government, on 26th April, 2022 in direct violation of the constitutional provisions. The Congress had led a delegation to the Governor and submitted a memorandum outlining the issues with this agreement. This has now been followed by the current issue, which authorises the back-door entry of the Government of Delhi to Chandigarh. I strongly oppose this decision and will seek the intervention of the Governor to act in the interest of Punjab against this notification,” Bajwa said.

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