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Himachal CM keeps Home, Finance as hectic lobbying begins for Cabinet berths

Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, CM Himachal Pradesh

Shimla:  Ahead of Cabinet formation, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Sukhu has allocated work to deputy Chief Minister Mukesh Agnihotri but has kept the key portfolios of home and finance with him.

Hectic lobbying for the cabinet berths in Himachal Pradesh is underway as newly elected MLAs close to him are expecting key portfolios even as Pratibha Singh will also be building pressure to get cabinet berths for MLAs loyal to her.

Only the Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister have taken oath so far after the Congress resolved its leadership issue as Pradesh Congress President Pratibha Singh had also staked  her claim to the CM’s post. She is a sitting MP and wife of former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh.

Before flying to Delhi on Wednesday, his first official tour to meet Central leaders, Sukhu decided to allocate the portfolio of Jal Shakti and Transport, beside Language, Art and Culture to Agnihotri.

During the earlier Congress government led by Virbhadra Singh, Agnihotri was minister for industries and Parliamentary affairs.

As per notification issued by the state government Sukhu apart from Home, Finance and General administration will retain all the undistributed portfolios with him till he constitutes his team of ministers.

Vikramaditya Singh, two time MLA from Shimla (rural) and son of Virbhadra Singh has already been assured a cabinet position by the high command as a bargain for making Sukhu the Chief Minister.

Pratibha Singh had staked her claim quite emphatically for Chief Ministership on the grounds of the political legacy of Virbhadra Singh whose name was used by the party during the campaign to seek votes.

“ How can they (high command) ignore the family and legacy of Virbhadra Singh. The people of the state want someone from his family to lead the government to carry his model of government,” she had maintained.

The cabinet formation is a new challenge for Sukhu inview of a large number of claimants, especially in the two large districts of Kangra –having nine Congress MLAs and 7 from Shimla while there are only 10 berths, besides two already filled by Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister. The size of the cabinet is 12 including the Chief Minister.

Three Congress seniors– Kaul Singh Thakur, Ram Lal Thakur and Asha Kumari–who are also seen either in the Chief Ministerial race or cabinet have lost their elections .

Mandi –a district with total 10 seats elected just one congress MLA while Solan, Kullu, Una and Sirmaur together have 11 MLAs elected on the Congress tickets .

Some of the prominent names going around include Chander Kumar-a OBC and six time MLA, Harvardhan Chauhan, also a sixth time legislators, Rohit Thakur, Rajesh Dharmani, Dhani Ram Shandil , Sudhir Sharma, Sudar Thakur, Kuldeep Pathania, Anirudh Singh, Ashish Butail and R S Bali –a young face and son of former minister G S Bali.

By now, Sukhu has already appointed his close confidents – Sunil Sharma and Naresh Chauhan as principal (Political) advisor and Principal media advisor respectively with cabinet ranks while another Congress leader Gukul Butail, considered close to AICC incharge Rajeev Shukla has been made Principal Advisor (IT and innovations) .None of the old Virbhadra Singh loyalists have got any position so far.

Next in the queue is the appointment of the Advocate General .The name of young advocate Anoop Rattan, Sukhu’s staunch lieutenant is already going around.

Meanwhile all 40 MLAs led by Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister are heading for Jaipur in Rajasthan to join “BharatJodo Yatra” of Rahul Gandhi at Alwar which will complete 100 years on December 16.