Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu Takes Oath As Himachal Pradesh CM, Mukesh Agnihotri Sworn In As His Deputy

Senior Himachal Pradesh Congress leader Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu was named as the party's Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh on Saturday. Mukesh Agnihotri, the Leader of Opposition in the outgoing state assembly, will be his deputy. Congress state unit chief Pratibha Singh was the third leading contender for the post of CM of Himachal.

Congress leader Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu taking oath as Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister

Senior Himachal Pradesh Congress leader Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu took oath as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh on Sunday. 

Sukhu was the Himachal Pradesh Congress Campaign Committee chairman in the recently concludded assembly elections in which Congress defeated the Jairam Thakur-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government. He is a four-time MLA and a former Himachal Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief.

The other leading contender for the post of Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Mukesh Agnihotri, was on Sunday sworn in as Deputy Chief Minister. Agnihotri was the Leader of Opposition in the outgoing state assembly. This is the first time that Himachal has got a deputy chief minister. 

Sukhu and Agnihotri were sworn in at around 1:30 pm in Shimla. 

The announcement of Sukhu as Himachal's new chief minister came on Saturday evening after dramatic scenes involving slaganeering by supporters of PCC chief Pratibha Singh, who was the third contender for the Himachal's CM's post along with Sukhu and Agnihotri.

CM announced after two days of consultations

The names of Sukhu and Agnihotri were finalised by the Congress leadership following deliberations with the MLAs over two days amid hectic lobbying by aspirants, including state Congress chief Pratibha, the wife of former Himachal CM and Congress stalwart Virbhadra Singh, party sources told PTI.

In a meeting on Friday evening, the MLAs had unanimously passed a resolution authorising the Congress president to pick the legislature party leader after the three leaders reached the venue with their supporters who raised slogan in their favour.

After a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party in Shimla, its second in 24 hours, Congress's central observer and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel announced the election of Sukhu as the CLP leader. Addressing the media accompanied by another observer, former Haryana chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, and AICC in-charge for Himachal Pradesh Rajeev Shukla, he announced that Agnihotri would be the deputy chief minister.

Soon after, the Congress leadership left for the residence of the governor to stake claim to form the government.

Later, Sukhu presented his claim to form a new government in Himachal to Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar at Raj Bhavan in Shimla. He was accompanied by Shukla and Pratibha. A formal letter was handed over to Arlekar staking claim to form a new government in Himachal.

Who is Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu?

Sukhu is a four-term MLA and a former chief of the Congress state unit. 

Sukhu is considered close to party leader Rahul Gandhi, said party sources to PTI.

Sukhu was known as a detractor of Congress veteran and six-time chief minister Virbhadra Singh, according to the sources.

Son of a road transport corporation driver, Sukhu had a modest beginning and used to run a milk counter at Chhota Shimla in his early days. Rising through the ranks, he was a relentless fighter and remained the party's state unit president for a record six years during 2013-19 despite being frequently at loggerheads with Virbhadra Singh, a six-time chief minister.

Sukhu won the assembly election for the first time in 2003 from Nadaun in Hamirpur district, retained the seat in 2007 but was defeated in 2012 and won again in 2017 and 2022. 

Sukhu is the first Congress leader from Lower Himachal, comprising areas merged in Himachal in 1966 such as Nalagarh, Una, Hamirpur, Kangra and lower hills of Kullu, to occupy the top post. He is the second chief minister from Hamirpur district after BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal.

Dalai Lama congratulates Sukhu 

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama on Sunday congratulated  Sukhu on being sworn in as the chief minister of Himachal Pradesh.

"India has been my home for more than 62 years now and I have been happy to reside most of that time here in Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh. Consequently, I often refer to the chief minister as 'our chief minister'," the Dalai Lama wrote.

"I deeply appreciate the friendship and hospitality that the people from all walks of life in Himachal Pradesh have shown me and my fellow Tibetans all these years," he said.

In his message to the new chief minister, the Dalai Lama wrote: "Like other places in the state, Dharamshala has grown and developed tremendously since I first arrived in McLeod Ganj in May 1960. I am confident that the people of Himachal Pradesh will continue to prosper, especially the less privileged members of the society. I wish you every success in fulfilling the hopes and aspirations of the people of the state." 

(With PTI inputs)