Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, a four-time Congress lawmaker, took the oath of office as the 15th chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, and Mukesh Agnihotri was sworn in as the state's first deputy chief minister. The party ran its campaign on a promise to provide 100,000 jobs and the old pension scheme (OPS) to public employees.
Sukhu later said his government will bring back the OPS at the first cabinet meeting. “We have given 10 guarantees and we will implement them. We will give a transparent and honest government,” he said. OPS were a contentious issue in the hill state after it was discontinued in 2004. In OPS, pension was 50% of the last drawn salary of the employee and the entire amount was paid by the government.
Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar administered the oath of office to Sukhu, 58, and Agnihotri, 60, at a ceremony on the historic Ridge Maidan in Shimla, which was attended by senior Congress functionaries such Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AICC president Mallikarjun Kharge,and Rahul Gandhi, who took a short break from his Bharat Jodo Yatra. In the 68-member assembly, Congress has 40 MLAs, BJP 25 and three independents after the recent assembly elections.
Cabinet formation put on hold
The formation of the new Himachal cabinet could be delayed as Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday summoned all 40 newly elected MLAs of the party to Alwar in Rajasthan amid frantic lobbying by factions for berths in Sukhu's ministry.
Rahul, whose Bharat Jodo Yatra is passing through the desert state, might get the entire flock of legislators to join him in the march, in which case the cabinet is unlikely to be finalised by December 15, sources said. CM Sukhu and his deputy Agrihotri went into a huddle with the other 38 MLAs at the secretariat, but there was no information about what transpired at the meeting. Rahul's call to the state party leadership added to the intrigue.