Monday, July 15, 2024

Fauja Singh Sarari resigns as Punjab Cabinet Minister

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Punjab Minister Fauja Singh Sarari resigned from the Cabinet on Saturday, months after he was embroiled in a controversy over an audio clip in which he allegedly discussed ways to “trap” some contractors in order to “extort” money.

Sarari has resigned from the cabinet of Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, confirmed a senior leader of the ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP).

AAP’s Punjab unit spokesperson Malvinder Singh Kang said Sarari has resigned from the cabinet, citing “personal reasons”.

Sources said Patiala Rural MLA Dr Balbir Singh was likely to replace Sarari, who held portfolios including horticulture and food processing.

A purported audio clip of an alleged conversation between Sarari and his former close aide, discussing ways to “trap” some contractors involved in food grain transportation through some officials to “extort money” from them, had surfaced in September.

Sarari (61), a retired policeman, was elected to the Punjab Assembly from Guru Har Sahai in Ferozepur.

He had defeated SAD candidate Vardev Singh by 10,574 votes.

Earlier in May, barely two months after the AAP had stormed to power winning 92 of the 117 assembly seats in Punjab, Health Minister Vijay Singla had been sacked from the state cabinet over alleged graft charges.

Opposition parties in the state had been demanding Sarari’s sacking and arrest. He, however, had rubbished allegations against him.

The Congress and the BJP had questioned why the AAP government had not taken action against him after the audio clip surfaced about four months ago.

After the arrest of former Punjab minister Sunder Sham Arora last year by the Punjab Vigilance Bureau for allegedly offering a bribe of Rs 50 lakh to one of its officers to help him settle cases against him, the opposition had accused the AAP government of adopting double standards over the issue of corruption and asked why Sarari was not being arrested in the audio clip issue.

Arora was a minister in the Congress government and had joined the BJP in June last year.

In July 2022, the Bhagwant Mann government had carried out its first cabinet expansion inducting five party legislators, including Sarari.

After that, the strength of the state cabinet had reached 15, including the chief minister.

There are 18 berths in the cabinet, including the chief minister.

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