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Himachal CM Sukhwinder Sukhu To Expand Cabinet Today While Balancing Regional, Caste, And Political Considerations

Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu has not been able to constitute his cabinet owing to infighting, intense lobbying of the MLAs, and also problems in striking a balance of power especially when Pradesh Congress Committee President Pratibha Singh had also staked her claim to the post of Chief Minister invoking the 'legacy' factor.

Himachal Pradesh CM Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu left for Delhi on Thursday
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Ending long suspense, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu is all set to expand his Cabinet on Sunday. A senior official of the Raj Bhawan confirmed that the swearing-in ceremony of the new ministers will be held at 10 am at the Raj Bhawan.

It's almost a month since four-term MLA Sukhu had taken oath on December 11, following party high command favouring his name for the leadership, besides naming Mukesh Agnihotri, a five-time MLA, as Deputy Chief Minister.

Since then, Sukhu has not been able to constitute his Cabinet owing to infighting, intense lobbying of the MLAs and also problems in striking a balance of power especially when Pradesh Congress Committee President Pratibha Singh had also staked her claim to the post of Chief Minister invoking the "legacy" factor.

Sukhu, confirming the swearing-in ceremony of the new ministers on Saturday, told Outlook over the phone, "All 10 guarantees of the Congress will be implemented. We are committed to it. The OPS decision will be taken in the first meeting of the full cabinet."

The delay in the Cabinet had been proving to be an embarrassment for the Congress even as the Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) also began questioning the delay in implementation of the promises like Old Pension Scheme (OPS), a major poll plank of the congress which proved a big jolt for the previous BJP-led government.

"You promised to implement OPS within 10 days of the forming of the government. What will you tell the people of the state?" asked the leader of the opposition Jai Ram Thakur in the state assembly.

The Congress had won 40 seats in the November 12 assembly elections, the results of which were declared on December 8. The Congress had not projected anyone as the chief ministerial face in the polls, a departure from earlier elections when Virbhadra Singh used to lead the party and eventually take over as Chief Minister.

Sukhu faced the arduous task to pick up his team as it's still not clear how he has chosen to strike a balance of regions, castes and political considerations.

"We have not yet received the list of the names," officials from the Raj Bhawan said.

Earlier on Saturday, Sukhu said the discussions with the high command and senior leaders have been held and an approved list will come from the party by the night. 

"I will go ahead with the expansion of getting a green signal for the party," said Sukhu.

Sukhu had left for Delhi on January 5 from Dharamshala where the first session of the state assembly was underway.

Some of the probables likely to join the Cabinet include Chander Kumar, a former minister, and Harvardhan Chauhan, both six-time MLAs, Col (Retd) Dhani Ram Shandil, Jagat Singh Negi, Vikramaditya Singh, who is the son of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, Rajesh Dharmani, Rohit Thakur, and Sunder Singh.

There are chances of one or two first-timers getting the Cabinet berths. Yet the biggest problem will be striking a power balance among districts like Shimla, old Himachal, and Kangra, the state's biggest district.

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