Himachal CM Sukhwinder Sukhu Inducts 7 Ministers, Seeks To Strike Regional And Power Balance

The much-awaited Cabinet-formation in Himachal Pradesh was delayed by intense lobbying within the Congress party for Cabinet berths. Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu also faced problems in striking a balance of power in the state party unit.

Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar and Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu during the oath taking ceremony of Cabinet members at Raj Bhawan in Shimla.

Nearly a month after he was sworn in as Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu on Sunday formed his Cabinet with the induction of seven ministers

The much-awaited Cabinet-formation was delayed by intense lobbying within the Congress party for Cabinet berths. Sukhu also faced problems in striking a balance of power in the state party unit, especially as Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) President Pratibha Singh earlier staked claim to the post of chief minister over the ‘legacy’ factor. Pratibha is the wife of Virbhadra Singh, the late Congress stalwart who served as CM of Himachal six times. 

Sukhu’s inability to form the Cabinet had been drawing flack from the Opposition while it was understood that he was facing a tough task to strike a regional and caste balance, besides adjusting some of the staunch loyalists who had stood by him in the chief ministerial race against PCC President Pratibha and Mukesh Agnihotri.

Though Pratibha pitched herself as a chief minister face, the Congress high command went ahead with Sukhu and appointed Agnihotri —another former CM post contender— as his deputy. Since Sukhu and Agnihotri took oath on December 11, the two had been running the government without a Cabinet. 

In striking a balance of power, Sukhu on Sunday inducted 33-year-old Vikramaditya Singh as a minister, the son of Pratibha and Virbhadra Singh. He is a two-time MLA and represents Shimla (Rural) constituency. 

Who are Sukhu’s ministers?

Himachal Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar administered the oath of office and secrecy to Cabinet ministers on Sunday at Raj Bhawan in Shimla.

Besides Vikramaditya, another MLA with a legacy, four-time MLA Rohit Thakur, joined Sukhu’s Cabinet. He is the grandson of former CM Thakur Ram Lal and represents the apple-belt of Jubbal-Kotkhai.  

Though there were 10 vacancies in the Cabinet, Sukhu chose to fill only seven in the first phase with the balance of power in his hand. Including the CM and Deputy CM, the Himachal Cabinet can have a maximum of 12 members. 

The other Cabinet members inducted on Sunday are —

  • Dhani Ram Shandil from Solan
  • Chander Kumar from Jawali in Kangra district
  • Harshwardhan Chauhan from Shillai in Sirmaur district
  • Jagat Singh Negi from tribal Kinnaur district
  • Rohit Thakur from Jubbal-Kotkhai
  • Anirudh Singh from Kasumpti

The Congress returned to power in the Himachal assembly elections held last year by winning 40 seats in the 68-member assembly as the people of Himachal stayed with the trend of replacing the government every five years.

Sukhu seeks regional balance

Sukhu gave a special representation to the key district of Kangra. Of the six Chief Parliamentary Secretaries (CPSs) appointed on Sunday, two were from Kangra. They are Ashish Butail, son of former Speaker BB Butail, and Kishori Lal, a Dalit from Baijnath.

However, only one Cabinet minister —six-time MLA Chander Kumar— was inducted from Kangra, Himachal’s biggest district.

Another six-time MLA, Harvardhan Chauhan, was among new ministers. He was elected from Shailai, one of the lesser developed constituencies.

Other faces included Colonel (Retired) Dhani Ram Shandil, a Dalit, Jagat Singh Negi, four-time MLA from Kinnaur (tribal district), and Anirudh Shimla from Kasumpati (Shimla).

Sukhu could not accommodate some of his hardcore supporters like Rajesh Dharmani, a three-time MLA and All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary. However, he inducted two as CPSs — Surender Thakur from Kullu and Sanjay Awasthi from Arki. Both of them are two-time MLAs.

Sukhu said portfolios of the ministers will be allocated by later in the day.

Till now, Sukhu had with him the portfolios of Finance, General Administration, Home, Planning, Personnel, and all other departments not allotted to any minister, while Agnihotri had portfolios of Jal Shakti, Transport and Language, Arts and Culture.

Two other CPs inducted on Sunday were Mohan Lal Brakta and Ram Kumar Chaudhary from Shimla and Solan districts respectively.