Pradesh Congress Committee leader Virbhadra Singh was sworn in as Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, along with nine other Cabinet Ministers, on a bright Christmas morning here on Tuesday. Governor Urmila Singh administered the oath of office and secrecy to Mr. Singh and his Cabinet colleagues on the Ridge Maidan, the town’s most popular plateau square. Chief Secretary Sudripto Roy conducted the formal proceedings and a huge number of Congress supporters and leaders from the State attended the ceremony.

The other Congress leaders who took their oath were Vidya Stokes, Kaul Singh Thakur, G.S. Bali, Sujan Singh Pathania, Thakur Singh Bharmauri, Mukesh Agnihotri, Sudhir Sharma, Prakash Chaudhary and Col. Dhani Ram Shandil.

The All India Congress Committee in charge of State Birender Chaudhary and Anees Ahmad and a few MLAs from Punjab were also present on the occasion.

No leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or any other party from Himachal Pradesh, including former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and Shanta Kumar, attended the ceremony. No Central leaders from the Congress, including Cabinet Ministers Anand Sharma and Chandresh Kumari (both hail from Himachal Pradesh), or Chief Ministers from the neighbouring States were present on the occasion. According to sources close to these Ministers, no invitations were extended to them for the ceremony.

However, the lone winner from Himachal Lokhit Party and former BJP MP Maheshwar Singh, who is related to Mr. Singh was present.

Mr. Singh became the Chief Minister for the first time in 1983 and had been a Lok Sabha MP before that. He was the Chief Minister for three full terms from 1985 to 1990, 1993 to 1998 and from 2003 to 2007. He had replaced Ram Lal Thakur as the Congress Chief Minister in 1983 and had fought elections from the Jubbal-Kotkhai Assembly seat. He was sworn in again in 1998 for about a week, but could not prove his majority. The BJP government, along with Sukhram’s Himachal Vikas Congress, ruled the State from 1998 to 2003.

He also had brief stints as the Deputy Minister for Tourism and Civil Aviation and Minister of State for Industries in the Government of India before coming to the State. He had to resign from the Union Ministry in June this year when charges were framed against him by a Special Court here in a corruption case. After he was made the Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) Chief, the party fought the elections under his leadership, replacing two times PCC head Kaul Singh Thakur.

According to the political observers here, he has tried to keep the balance in the new Cabinet and has adjusted the leaders from the other faction. There are still two vacancies in the Cabinet and the posts of the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker are yet to be filled.