Sonia approved portfolios: CM

A day after he allotted the portfolios to his nine cabinet colleagues, Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh said he has received Congress president Sonia Gandhi's approval to fill the remaining two cabinet berths and induct more chief parliamentary secretaries (CPSs). Virbhadra had administered oath to three CPSs hours after he was sworn in as the chief minister on December 25.

Sources in the Congress said that decks have now been cleared for induction of Anil Sharma, son of former Union Minister Sukh Ram, and Karan Singh, former minister and Congress MLA from Banjar (Kullu), in the cabinet.

"I am going to fill up both the two vacancies shortly. All ministers have been given portfolios as per their abilities and aptitude," Virbhadra said after returning from Delhi.

He, however, denied that he was under pressure while allotting portfolios. He said the entire exercise has approval of Sonia Gandhi.

On Cabinet composition, Virbhadra said it is a "mixture of old and new talents." He said that once the two remaining ministers join the cabinet, it will have a wider representation of all regions and varied experiences.

Meanwhile, some grumblings have been heard over portfolios as Kaul Singh Thakur has reportedly conveyed displeasure over not getting medical education while G S Bali is still insisting on tourism portfolio, currently held by the Chief Minister.

New PCC president soon: Virbhadra

Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh Saturday said he will quit PCC president's post. However, he didn't say who will be his replacement even as names of PCC vice-president and his close confident Harsh Mahajan, former MP and OBC leader Chander Kumar and former minister Ram Lal Thakur are being mentioned.

Mansa Ram to be pro-tem Speaker

Senior Congress MLA and former Minister Mansa Ram will be pro-tem Speaker for the newly constituted state assembly to administer oath to the newly elected MLAs and also conduct election of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker. The first session of the new assembly has been called at Dharamshala on January 8.

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