Shimla, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his 11 ministers — half of them first-timers — on Wednesday took oath of office at an impressive ceremony attended among others by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah.
Governor Acharya Devvrat administered the oath of office and secrecy to Thakur, who will turn 53 on January 6. This will be his maiden term as Chief Minister.
The swearing-in ceremony at the historic Ridge here was also attended by Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, J.P. Nadda and Nitin Gadkari, besides Chief Ministers of Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states, along with more than 30,000 party supporters from across the state, mostly in traditional attire.
BJP veteran and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was also present.
Five-time legislator Thakur, who rose through the ranks and is known for his humble, clean and low-profile nature, took the oath in Hindi. He had served as the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister when Prem Kumar Dhumal was Chief Minister (2007-12).
During the ceremony, Thakur, did not wear the trademark maroon flap cap of the BJP, like two-time Chief Minister Dhumal, who was defeated in the elections.
Thakur’s family members, including his 80-year-old widowed mother, who belongs to a remote village in Mandi district, attended the ceremony.
“This is the victory of the common man,” Thakur’s wife Sadhna Thakur, who is doctor by profession, said before the ceremony.
The 12-member ministry has six former ministers and equal number of first-timers in a blend of experienced and new faces. It has six Rajputs, including the Chief Minister, and three Brahmins.
The others who took oath were former Cabinet Ministers Mohinder Singh, Kishan Kapoor, Sarveen Chaudhary and Anil Sharma, former Minister of State Ram Lal Markanday and new faces Suresh Bhardwaj, Vipin Singh Parmar, Virender Kanwar, Vikram Thakur, Gobind Thakur and Rajeev Sahjal, who is a doctor by profession.
Sarveen Chaudhary is the lone woman minister in the cabinet and she belongs to the Other Backward Class.
All the ministers took the oath in Hindi, except Bhardwaj and Gobind Thakur, who took the oath in Sanskrit.
Son of former Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, Anil Sharma defected to the Congress and joined the BJP before the assembly elections in November.
Sharma was inducted into the Virbhadra Singh-led Cabinet in 2013 and allocated the portfolios of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj and Animal Husbandry. He was also a Minister of State from 1993-97. Bollywood superstar Salman Khan’s foster sister Arpita is married to Sharma’s son Aayush.
Senior legislators and former Cabinet Ministers Rajeev Bindal, Narender Bragta and Ramesh Dhawala did not find place in the cabinet.
Bindal was named as the Speaker of the assembly.
The BJP won a majority with 44 seats in the 68-member state assembly.
Thakur is the first Chief Minister from Mandi, the second biggest district of Himachal after Kangra. In these elections, the BJP won nine out of the 10 assembly seats in Mandi.
Earlier, Chief Ministers of Himachal hailed from Shimla, Kangra and Sirmaur districts.
Thakur, known for his proximity to Nadda, did his graduation from a Mandi college and post-graduation from Panjab University in Chandigarh.
The BJP took almost a week to decide on the Chief Minister after its chief ministerial candidate Dhumal lost the election. Several names were doing the rounds for the past few days, including those of Nadda, Suresh Bharadwaj, Dhumal and Thakur.
A decision on Thakur’s name was taken unanimously on December 24 at the BJP Legislative Party meeting here, where central observers — Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar — were present.
Outgoing Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his erstwhile cabinet colleagues were conspicuously absent from the ceremony.