Five-time Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MLA, Jai Ram Thakur on Wednesday took oath as 13th Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, along with 11 cabinet ministers in the presence of Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, BJP President, Amit Shah, senior leader, Lal Krishan Advani and few chief ministers, including Adityanath Yogi.
It was a massive show of strength on the historic Ridge as Jai Ram Thakur, 52, became CM for the first time amid the slogan ‘Himachal Mein Yuva Netritv ka Agaaz’.
While Jai Ram Thakur emerged as Chief Minister after CM’s face, Dhumal lost, the BJP has clearly indicated to groom a younger leadership in the state, with half of the new faces in cabinet.
Himachal can have a maximum of 12 membered cabinet, including the CM.
Former BJP chief and four-time MLA from Shimla, Suresh Bhardwaj, 65, is the eldest among new faces.
Three-time MLA, Rajiv Saijjal from Kasauli, is the youngest at 46 years.
BJP insiders said while RSS has had much say in Thakur’s ministry, the party has tried to strike regional balance, giving precedence to Mandi and Kangra districts, which gave maximum seats.
Seven-time MLA from Dharampur in Mandi, Mahender Singh Thakur took oath at number two after the Chief Minister. He is the eldest minister in BJP government at 67 years.
Former Union minister, Sukh Ram’s son, Anil Sharma, who was a minister in previous Congress government and switched to BJP before polls, has walked away with cabinet berth again.
The new cabinet has four ministers, including the only woman minister, Sarveen Chaudhary, from biggest Kangra district, which gave 11 out of 15 seats to BJP this time.
The BJP government now has CM and two ministers from Mandi, four from Kangra, one each from Una, Kullu, Solan, Shimla and tribal areas. Bilaspur, Hamirpur, Sirmaur and Chamba have been left out in the ministry.
“People with background in organisation and seniority have been taken in the Council of ministers. The regional balance has also been taken care of,” state BJP chief, Satpal Singh Satti.
Party insiders said the list of ministers was finalised after consultations with high command and lobbying by senior leaders in Himachal in the morning itself.
Sources said the name of Rajiv Bindal, former health minister, Rajiv Bindal, who has never lost an election and is five-time MLA in a row (three times from Solan, twice from Nahan), was struck off at the last minute. He is now being elevated as Speaker, said state BJP chief.
Former minister, Kishan Kapoor from Dharamshala was, however, inducted in the Council of ministers at the eleventh hour.