The newly inducted Ministers in Himachal Pradesh were allocated portfolios with Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh retaining key ministries of Finance, Home, Personnel, General Administration, Planning, Education and Tourism. The second in command Vidya Stokes has been given Irrigation and Public Health, Horticulture and Information Technology, while Kaul Singh Thakur the former PCC Chief and a top slot contender this time has been given Health and Family Welfare, Revenue, and Law.
The Minister from Kangra G.S. Bali has been allocated Food and Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs, Transport and Technical Education and another leader from Kangra, Sujan Singh Pathania, who is considered close to the Chief Minister has been given the important portfolios of Agriculture, Multipurpose Projects and Power, and Non Conventional Energy.
Mr. Thakur Singh Bharmauri representing the tribal belts of Chamba, Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti has been made the Forest and Fisheries Minister.
A Virbhadra confidant from Una district, M.K. Agnihotri, has been given the key portfolios of Industry, Labour and Employment, Information and Public Relations and Parliamentary Affairs. The youngest face in the government Sudhir Sharma has been given Urban Development, Housing and Town and Country Planning Ministries while Prakash Chaudhary has been made in-charge of Excise and Taxation and Printing and Stationery.
Col. (retd.) Dhani Ram Shandil whose name was considered for the top slot in the new government has been allotted the least significant Ministry for Social Justice and Empowerment and Welfare.
There are 10 Ministers in the Cabinet including the Chief Minister and two posts are vacant. aran Singh from Kullu and Anil Sharma from Mandi are expected to be made the two new Ministers, according to party sources. Mr. Karan Singh is the younger brother of Himachal Lokhit Party president Maheshwar Singh and a close relation of Mr. Virbhadra Singh. He was a Minister in the previous Dhumal-led BJP government from 1998-2003. He later joined the Congress.
Mr. Anil Sharma is a son of the former Union Minister, Sukh Ram, and he was also a Minister in the 1993 Virbhadra-led Congress government. He was also a Rajya Sabha member from the then Sukh Ram’s Himachal Vikas Congress.
Another Chief Ministerial candidate Asha Kumari has refused to take any Ministry this time.
But reportedly in an interesting move a section of Congress leadership is trying to get clearance from the party high command for making Lokhit Party president Maheshwar Singh the Speaker of the new House. The Congress has a wafer thin majority (36 out of 68) in the Vidhan Sabha and the move can embarrass the BJP, since Mr. Maheshwar Singh was a former BJP president and Lok Sabha MP from Mandi-Kullu parliamentary seat.