Senior Congress leader and 4-time MLA Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, a Gandhi family loyalist, took oath as the 15th Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh at a ceremony on Sunday. Senior party leaders including Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra were present at the swearing-in ceremony.
Mukesh Agnihotri, former leader of the opposition, also took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.
Governor RV Arlekar administered the oath of office to them at a formal function being organized at Ridge Maidan in Shimla.
Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar administered the oath of office and secrecy to 58-year-old Sukhu in an open-air ceremony at the historic Ridge ground. Mukesh Agnihotri, who was the Leader of the Opposition in the outgoing Assembly, took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister.
Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot also attended the ceremony. Former Union Minister Anand Sharma, former Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Himachal Pradesh Congress in-charge Rajeev Shukla, State Congress President Pratibha Singh and senior leader Sachin Pilot were also present at the swearing-in ceremony.
The maximum number of cabinet ministers including the Chief Minister can be 12 in the state. The cabinet will be expanded later.
Earlier to this nominated Chief Minister Sukhu met Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar at the Raj Bhavan and staked claim to form a new government in Himachal Pradesh. He was accompanied by Rajeev Shukla, the in-charge of the party in Himachal Pradesh and Pratibha Singh, the head of the state unit of the Congress. A formal letter was submitted to the Governor to stake claim for the formation of the new government in Himachal Pradesh.
Sukhu lauded Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi after his election and said the party will fulfil its poll promises. He said the new government will “bring change”.
Sukhu said that he is happy that despite being from an ordinary family he will be the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh.
“I am happy that I am going to be CM despite being from an ordinary family. I am thankful to the Congress party and the Gandhi family for giving me this opportunity. My mother never stopped me from being in politics. I have reached here today because of her blessings,” said Sukhu.
The party’s choice of Sukhu was however seen as a major setback to Himachal Pradesh Congress chief Pratibha Singh, who had openly raised slogans demanding that she should be made the Chief Minister.
Pratibha Singh’s supporters had registered their protest against the selection of Sukhu as the Chief Minister. Later, Singh said that she accepts the decision of the party high command.
Sukhu is the first Congress leader from the lower Himachal region to become the Chief Minister. He is the second such leader of Hamirpur district after Prem Kumar Dhumal, who will hold the post of Chief Minister.