Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal on Tuesday inducted three ministers in his cabinet to fill the vacant berths.
Punjab Governor Shivraj V Patil administered the oath of office and secrecy to the ministers at a brief ceremony at the Raj Bhawan here.
Those inducted by Badal in his over two-year-old ministry are -- Tota Singh (Dharamkot MLA), Daljeet Singh Cheema (Ropar MLA) and Sohan Singh Thandal (Chabbewal MLA).
With the induction of the three ministers, the strength of Badal cabinet has risen to 18, including the Chief Minister and his deputy Sukhbir Singh Badal.
While Tota was re-inducted as a minister, as he had resigned in May 2012 after his conviction for a year in a case pertaining to misuse of official vehicle, Cheema and Thandal get the cabinet post for the first time.
Cheema is a doctor by profession and had been associated with the Akali Dal for the past over two decades, whereas Thandal is a Dalit face of the party.
This is SAD-BJP alliance government`s first cabinet expansion since it formed the government for the second consecutive term in May 2012.
The three slots in the Badal cabinet had fallen vacant ater resignation by Tota Singh and Bibi Jagir Kaur in 2012 after their convictions in different cases and Sarwan Singh Phillaur had quit the ministerial post last month after his son Damanveer`s name got embroiled in a multi-crore synthetic drug case.
Besides Tota, Thandal was convicted in a disproportionate assets case of 2011 by the vigilance bureau, but in 2013 he was acquitted by the High Court.
Veteran leader Tota Singh had been MLA thrice and had remained an education and agriculture minister during his earlier stints.
Tota Singh and Thandal are three-time MLAs while Cheema became legislator for the first time after the 2012 assembly polls.
This will be the first expansion of the Badal government since it formed government on March 3, 2012. Earlier, SAD-BJP alliance was in power from 2007 to 2012.
Besides, other cabinet colleagues of Badal, senior administrative and police officers were present on the occasion.
Later, Badal told media that the vacant pots of ministers were filled on the basis of merit.
"With the induction of three ministers the efficiency of government will improve," he said.
On beings asked that certain MLAs, including Hira Singh Zira was unhappy for not getting his nod, Badal said that it is a family affair and he is a party loyalist. "We respect him (Hira) and do so in future as well," he said.