Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, the son of a bus driver and a four-time Congress MLA, was Sunday sworn in as the 15th Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh. His oath-taking ceremony, held in state capital Shimla, was attended by senior party leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Mallikarjun Kharge.
Known for his organisational work and clean image, Sukhu, 58, was administered the oath of office and secrecy by Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar, with his mother, wife and daughters watching on.
Former journalist and MLA from Haroli Mukesh Agnihotri was sworn in as Deputy CM.
Following the Himachal election results, the Congress moved swiftly to name a chief minister within 48 hours. Sukhu’s appointment came amid the claim made by Pratibha Singh, state party president and wife of the late former chief minister Virbhadra Singh — who long dominated the state’s politics.
Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi took a short break from his Bharat Jodo Yatra and arrived at Shimla from Rajasthan. Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Bhagel, observer Sachin Pilot, party leader Rajiv Shukla and former Union Minister Anand Sharma were other prominent attendees, apart from Congress General Secretary Priyanka.
It is learnt that state Pratibha’s son Vikramaditya Singh was earlier considered a probable candidate for the post of Deputy CM. This did not materialise.
A major challenge for the Sukhu government will be to reach consensus on party decisions in a rift-plagued state unit. Vikramaditya is likely to get an important portfolio, a source said.
The oath-taking ceremony was held at the iconic Ridge on Shimla’s Mall Road, where Indira Gandhi had held an open rally in snowfall after Himachal was granted statehood in 1972. A sea of people gathered at the Ridge, among the most popular tourist spots in Shimla.
Following the ceremony, the Chief Minister held a meeting with state observers and met children at an orphanage in Tutikundi. Later in the evening, he met supporters at Peterhoff Hotel.
“We did everything in good time. It is an important mandate for the party and the CM will discharge his duties for the benefit of the people. The decision was taken by high command with everyone on board,” said Rajiv Shukla, Congress’s Himachal in-charge.
“This is a victory for the public since there is a need for an opposition in healthy democracy. The CM has come from the ground up and has worked on several organisational levels. The party will carry out important work and execute crucial policies,” said RS Bali, MLA from Nagrota Bhawan and a likely cabinet minister.
PM Narendra Modi congratulated Sukhu on his elevation. “I assure all possible cooperation from the Centre to further the development of Himachal Pradesh,” he tweeted.
Born on March 27, 1964, at Bhavarna village of Nadaun in Hamipur district, Sukhu studied law from Himachal Pradesh University, Shimla. His father Rasil Singh was a driver with the state roadways. As a student, he did menial jobs to supplement his income.