KHAIRA HITS TARGET
Rana Gurjit resigns, but Amarinder may have little respite
- PT Bureau
Rana Gurjit resigns, but Amarinder may have little respite



CHANDIGARH: In an explosive development in Punjab politics, the state Power and Irrigation Minister Rana Gurjit Singh, who was facing serious charges of a scam related to sand mine contracts, has finally resigned.

Sources, however, said this could bring little respite to the beleaguered Amarinder Singh government as the development may actually boost the morale of the opposition, particularly of the Aam Aadmi Party which has been in the forefront to demand the minister's sacking.

Rana Gurjit faced allegations of being the proxy man behind his former employee walking away with contracts of sand mines in Nawanshahr. 

The development may hardly gladden the hearts of either CM Amarinder Singh or Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal as both view AAP's Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who had been persistently upping the pressure on this issue, as an upstart and a challenge.
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The development may hardly gladden the hearts of either CM Amarinder Singh or Akali Dal's Sukhbir Singh Badal as both view AAP's Sukhpal Singh Khaira, who had been persistently upping the pressure on this issue, as an upstart and a challenge.
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"Yes, I have resigned. Now, it is up to the Chief Minister and the party high command to take further action. In fact, I had resigned earlier also when my name was dragged into the sand mine auction controversy,” The Indian Express quoted the outgoing minister as saying. The newspaper had relentlessly pursued the story, coming up with a series of reports regarding the alleged links of Rana Gurjit with firms involved in the sand mine auction.

The Indian Express had recently reported that a contractor, who was sent to jail in December 2017 after large scale irregularities were uncovered in the irrigation department, "had partly funded the successful sand mine auction bid of Rajbir Enterprises, the firm in which Rana Gurjit’s former employee Amit Bahadur was a working partner."

Amarinder Singh would have little option but to accept the resignation of the minister he was seen as defending a little too keenly. The scandal took away the sheen from any claims of zero tolerance towards corruption.

Rana Gurjit's resignation comes just before the Punjab Congress top brass is to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi in a couple of days.

Ironically, the resignation also follows a clean chit that the minister procured from a Commission of Inquiry which was tasked by the CM to probe the scam. 

The AAP, particularly its Leader of the Opposition, Sukhpal Singh Khaira, had been making allegations of Rana Gurjit having directly pumped money from his company into another firm, which, in turn, paid money for two sand mines in Saidpur Khurd and Mehdipur in Nawanshahr.
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Rana Gurjit's resignation comes just before the Punjab Congress top brass is to meet Congress president Rahul Gandhi in a couple of days, and just after the minister procured a clean chit from a Commission of Inquiry set up by CM Amarinder Singh.
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Khaira and his party had been seeking a CBI probe into the auction of sand mines in the state.

The contracts for the two mines were bagged by the minister’s former employees, Amit Bahadur and Kulvinder Paul Singh, at Rs 26.52 crore and Rs 9.21 crore, respectively. After the controversy broke out, the minister was accused of using his proxies to win the mining contracts, but he denied any involvement. 

Reports had brought out that as per documents submitted to the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, the address of a firm linked to sand contracts, RGS Traders Co, was the same as the address of Rana Sugars owned by the tainted minister as also the fact that the minister and his wife Rajbans Kaur had availed a loan of Rs 4.07 crore from the same firm, as per the documentation Rana Gurjit filed when contesting polls.
 
While the Congress government in Punjab was hit by such a serious charge of corruption by a Cabinet minister embarrassingly early, Amarinder Singh was never able to come up with a reasoned defence.  

As early as May 31, 2017, The Tribune had editorially commented that if Amarinder Singh hoped "to reaffirm his claim that the Congress indeed means to end corruption in the state, the least he has to do is to remove the minster from his position to facilitate a fair inquiry."

"Rana Gurjit Singh’s continuation as minister is untenable for reasons more than just the attempt to get his employees to corner mines. He handles two ministries — irrigation and power — and has apparent personal business interests in both. His company is selling power to the Punjab Government and many of the sand mines are in rivers that he is expected to guard. This conflict of interest was way too obvious for the Chief Minister to ignore in the first place," The Tribune had said in a scathing comment. 
 

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