CHANDIGARH -- Amarinder Singh, who led the Congress to victory in Punjab after a gap of 10 years, will take oath as the state's 26th Chief Minister here in a simple ceremony today, which party Vice-President Rahul Gandhi is also expected to attend.
Singh, who turned 75 on 11 March, the day state assembly results were declared is likely to induct nine ministers initially, party sources said adding that the cabinet would be expanded later.
The state can have a maximum of 18 ministers. The Congress has 77 MLAs in the assembly.
Singh and members of his cabinet will be administered oath by Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore at the Raj Bhawan.
The chief minister-designate has decided to go in for a simple swearing-in ceremony as an austerity measure.
"There will be nothing ostentatious about the oath-taking programme at the Raj Bhawan on Thursday morning, when Punjab Governor V P Singh Badnore will administer the oath of office to Amarinder Singh as the new chief minister of the state," Punjab Congress had said.
Singh had also met Rahul Gandhi and extended an invitation to him.
He has urged all the newly elected MLAs to also keep their personal invitations to the bare minimum.
Singh has made it clear that in the light of the state's fiscal situation, he did not want any unnecessary or wasteful expenditure to be incurred on the swearing-in ceremony.
The oath-taking ceremony of CM is traditionally held at the Raj Bhawan, the outgoing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal had chosen different venues for taking oath as CM in 2007 and 2012 when SAD-BJP formed the government.
The swearing-in ceremony of Badal, who was sworn-in as the CM for the fourth time in 2007, had taken place at the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium at Mohali. In 2012, the ceremony was held at historic Chapar Chiri Banda Bahadur Memorial, about 25 km from here.
This is the second time that Singh would be taking the oath as chief minister having served in that capacity in 2002-2007.
Several newly elected MLAs including Navjot Singh Sidhu, Manpreet Singh Badal, Brahm Mohindra, Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa, Rana Gurjit Singh, Pargat Singh, Razia Sultana, O P Soni are in the race for becoming ministers, party sources said.
Having tasted electoral victory in Punjab after a gap of 10 years, Congress would like to give representation to various sections and also accommodate experienced leaders and youth in the cabinet.
Cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who switched over from BJP to Congress (Amritsar East), Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa (Fatehgarh Churian), O P Soni (Amritsar Central) hail from Majha region, where the Congress put up an extremely good show.
From Doaba region, former hockey Captain Pargat Singh (Jalandhar Cantt), Rana Gurjit Singh (Kapurthala), are being considered major contenders for ministerial positions.
In the Malwa region, where Congress got 40 seats out of 69, Manpreet Singh Badal (Bathinda Urban), estranged nephew of outgoing Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Brahm Mohindra (Patiala Rural), Rakesh Pandey (Ludhiana North), Balbir Sidhu (Mohali) and Gurmeet Sodhi (Guruharsahai) are among the main contenders.
Among women, Razia Sultana (Malerkotla) and Aruna Choudhary (Dinanagar SC) have chances to become ministers.
Vijay Inder Singh Singla (Sangrur), Raja Amarinder Warring (Gidderabaha) and Kuljit Nagra (Fatehgarh Sahib), who are considered close to Rahul Gandhi, may also want to see themselves as ministers.
Among Dalit leaders, Charanjit Singh Channi (Chamkaur Sahib SC), Raj Kumar (Chabbewal SC) and Sadhu Singh Dharmsot (Nabha SC) are the front runners for ministerial berths.
It remains to be seen who among the contenders for ministerial positions will be inducted.
Riding on strong anti-incumbency, Congress stormed to power in Punjab after a gap of 10 years by winning 77 seats in the 117-assembly seats of the Vidhan Sabha.
Ruling SAD-BJP won 18, AAP fighting its maiden assembly polls in Punjab won 20 while 2 seats went to newly floated outfit and AAP ally Lok Insaaf Party.
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