Shimla, Jan 8 () Just a month old Congress government in Himachal Pradesh led by Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu in its first cabinet expansion on Sunday inducted seven ministers, a mix of first-timers and experienced, with the eldest being Col. Dhani Ram Shandil, 82, who is three-time MLA and Member of Parliament each.
The youngest in the Cabinet is Vikramaditya Singh, 33, the son of six-time Chief Minister late Virbhadra Singh. His mother and Member of Parliament Pratibha Singh was the frontrunner for the chief ministerial post.
Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Arlekar administered the oath of office and secrecy here to seven ministers, all with Cabinet ranks.
Six-time legislator Chander Kumar, 78, who was appointed as pro-tem Speaker, also took the oath. He’s a legislator from Jawali (reserved for the Scheduled Tribes) in Kangra, state’s biggest district, and previously remained the Forest Minister.
Six-time legislator Harshwardhan Chauhan was also inducted in the cabinet. He defeated BJP candidate Baldev Tomar from Shillai in Sirmaur district by 488 votes. Chauhan polled 32,093 votes. The Congress has won three of the five seats from Sirmaur.
Four-time legislator Jagat Singh Negi, whose performance has been judged the best based on the number of questions asked by him in the previous Assembly by asking 482 questions, also got a berth in the Cabinet. He was elected from Kinnaur (reserved for the Scheduled Tribes).
The first-time ministers inducted in the cabinet were four-time legislator Rohit Thakur, 48, three-time legislator Anirudh Singh, 45, and two-time legislator Vikramaditya Singh.
Rohit Thakur is the legislator from Jubbal-Kotkhai, while Anirudh Singh and Vikramaditya Singh represent Kasumpti and Shimla (Rural) seats, respectively. All constituencies are in Shimla district.
Col. Shandil, 82, was the strong contender for the post of Deputy Chief Minister. He was the Social Justice, Empowerment and Sainik Welfare Minister in the previous Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh.
Still there are three vacancies in the Cabinet.
Risen from the ranks with no political dynasty, but wide organisational experience, four-time Congress legislator Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, 58, who throughout his political career was not on the same page with the party’s tallest leader Virbhadra Singh, took the oath of office on December 11 as the 15th Chief Minister.
Four-time legislator Mukesh Agnihotri, 60, took the oath as the Deputy Chief Minister.