Three new ministers were inducted in the Himachal Pradesh cabinet today in a simple but impressive ceremony held at Raj Bhawan, with Chief Minister, Jai Ram Thakur trying to strike a regional balance.
Three time MLAs, Sukh Ram Chaudhary (56) from Paonta Sahib in Sirmaur, Rakesh Pathania (55) from Nurpur in Kangra and first time MLA from Ghumarwin in Bilaspur district, Rajinder Garg (54) were administered oath of office as cabinet ministers by Governor Bandaru Dattatraya with the government taking precautions of social distancing in the midst of COVID-19.
The much awaited cabinet expansion was delayed due to COVID-19 crisis.
With three new ministers taking oath, the Himachal Pradesh cabinet is full sized, with no vacancy.
The three BJP leaders inducted in the cabinet are first time ministers.
Two vacancies in the cabinet were created in the 2016 Lok Sabha polls, when the Food and Civil Supplies minister, Kishan Kapoor was elected as MP from Kangra and the Power minister from Mandi, Anil Sharma had to resign after his son contested on Congress ticket from Mandi Lok Sabha seat. Sharma’s son had however lost to BJP’s candidate.
The third vacancy in cabinet was created after Health minister, Vipin Parmar from Kangra district resigned to become Speaker of HP Assembly in February this year.
While the induction of Rakesh Pathania, who remained Vice Chairman of Himachal Pradesh Tourism Corporation from 1998 to 2003, was almost certain as he hails from the biggest Kangra district, which had lost two cabinet ministers in Kapoor and Parmar. BJP sources said even otherwise, Pathania had been a potential fire brand leader from the district, with good hold on ground and understanding of issues. (He had won as an independent in 2007 when denied BJP ticket). With Pathania becoming a minister, Kangra district now has three cabinet ministers, including Sarveen Chaudhary and Bikram Singh, and the HP Assembly Speaker.
Party sources said former Chief Parliamentary Secretary from Paonta Sahib, Sukh Ram Chaudhary’s induction is on expected lines. However, what has surprised everyone is the elevation of first timer Ghumarwin MLA, Rajinder Garg as cabinet minister. Sources said along with Pathania, Garg too has been inducted at the instance of national BJP President, Jagat Prakash Nadda, whose home district is Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, the new ministers are yet to be allotted portfolios. It is learnt that the Chief Minister may go in for reshuffle in the portfolios of entire cabinet.