Virbhadra appeases loyalists, detractors with key portfolios

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on Friday finally managed to clear the first big hurdle of his fledgling government as he resolved the tussle over portfolio allotment with some help from the Congress high command.

Singh, who has been camping in Delhi along with most of his newly inducted cabinet colleagues, seems to have pulled the impossible task of pleasing both his loyalists and the detractors by making veteran leader Vidya Stokes the minister for irrigation and public health and horticulture departments.

Sources said Stokes, who was also a chief ministerial aspirant, was initially keen on public works department even though Virbhadra had offered her the power department, which she had held earlier.

One of his detractors, Kaul Singh Thakur, the second most senior minister in the cabinet, has got health and family welfare department - he had been asking for either PWD or finance ministries - while yet another another, G S Bali, has got the most of the portfolio distribution cake.

Bali has been made in-charge of three important portfolios of transport, technical education and food and civil supplies.

On his part, Virbhadra will retain most of the key ministries, including home, finance, general administration, PWD, tourism, education and all other unallocated departments.

Late in the evening Raj Bhawan confirmed over phone that notification on allocation of the portfolios to nine ministers has been issued.

Among others, Mukesh Agnihotri has got the industries, labour and employment and information and public relations departments.

Sujan Singh Pathania has been given the multi-purpose projects (MPP) and power besides the agriculture department, while Thaur Singh Bharmouri, a tribal MLA, will be the forest minister.

Parkash Chaudhry has been made the minister for excise and taxations, while Col (Rtd) Dhani Ram Shandil will be minister for social and women empowerment.

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