Virbhadra Singh, 9 ministers take oath
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Veteran Congress leader Virbhadra Singh took oath as the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh for a record sixth time on Tuesday. This came a day after a Shimla court acquitted the 78-year-old leader of graft charges that led to his resignation from the Union Cabinet in June.
Nine Cabinet ministers, including Vidya Stokes and Kaul Singh Thakur, also took oath along with Virbhadra in a ceremony held at Shimla's Ridge. Governor Urmila Singh administered the oath of office and secrecy to Virbhadra and his ministers.
Hundreds of people came to witness the event. Several VVIPs, invitees and family members of ministers struggled to find space as an enthusiastic crowd captured seats hours before the ceremony started.
Virbhadra took oath at 10.40 am, followed by Stokes, Thakur, G S Bali, Sujan Singh Pathania, Thakur Singh Bharmauri, Mukesh Agnihotri, Sudhir Sharma, Prakash Chowdhary and Dhani Ram Shandil. Two-time MP Shandil's name was added to the list late on Monday evening. He was the last person to take oath.
Stokes is the only woman member of the Cabinet as of now. There are three ministers from Kangra, the largest district where the Congress won 10 out of 15 seats, two from Mandi and one each from Chamba, Una and Solan districts. Shimla is being represented by Virbhadra and Stokes.
The Cabinet also has first timers — Bharmauri, Agnihotri, Sharma and Shandil. Chowdhary, who represents scheduled castes, was a minister in Prem Kumar Dhumal led BJP-HVC coalition government. Bharmauri is the lone representative of scheduled tribes. Surprisingly, Asha Kumari was left out of the list as were Sukh Ram's son Anil Sharma, and Karan Singh, MLA from Banjar and brother of Maheshwar Singh, who heads the Himachal Lokhit Party. Asha had reportedly declined to join the Cabinet. This, in turn, led Bharmauri, a Virbhadra loyalist, to join the Cabinet.