Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu on Sunday reiterated that he would implement the Old Pension Scheme in the hill-state and provide Rs 1,500 per month to women between 18 to 59 years of age. Both were part of the Congress’ guarantees to the people ahead of the November 12 Assembly elections.
Sukhu said in a week’s time, he would fulfill the demand for retoration of the Old Pension Scheme, at the first cabinet meeting. The chief minister, who inducted seven new ministers into his Cabinet on Sunday, said his Cabinet has a mix of experience and youth.
He added that ‘honest’ people have been given an opportunity to serve the people and his government will work to fulfil the commitments made to the people. “All MLAs are discharging their duties and responsibilities, as public representatives. They are doing a good job. The BJP were raising questions on the Cabinet expansion as they had nothing else to talk about. Today we have expanded our cabinet and honest people have been given an opportunity to serve the people. At our first cabinet meeting, in a week’s time, we will implement the Old Pension Scheme. Also, Rs 1,500 will be given to women (in the age group of 18-59). The Congress will fulfil all its promises,” the CM said.
He added that with Sunday’s expansion, every region of the state has now been represented in the Cabinet. “We had given the list of 10 MLAs (to be inducted into the Cabinet) to the high command and it approved seven. There are still three vacant Cabinet berths. We want to serve the people to the best of our ability. They are plenty of departments to cater to people’s needs,” the CM said.
Sukhu said portfolios will be allocated soon. “There will not be any legal hurdles to the appointment of the chief parliamentary secretary. We appointed the CPS after holding due consultations,” he added.
Before the Cabinet expansion on Sunday, Sukhu administered the oath of office to six chief parliamentary secretaries appointed by him. Himachal Pradesh Governor Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar administered the oath of office and secrecy to the newly inducted Cabinet members at a ceremony at the Raj Bhawan on Sunday.
Among the new inductees in the Cabinet were Dhani Ram Shandil from the Solan Assembly constituency, Chander Kumar from the Jawali Assembly segment of Kangra district, Harshvardhan Chauhan from Shillai Assembly segment of Sirmaur district, Jagat Singh Negi from the tribal Assembly constituency of Kinnaur, Rohit Thakur from the Jubbal-Kotkhai segment, Anirudh Singh from Kasumpati Assembly segment and Vikramaditya Singh from Shimla rural Assembly seat. In Himachal Pradesh, the cabinet can have 12 members and with the induction of seven ministers, the total strength of the Sukuhu Cabinet has reached nine with three berths yet to be filled.
The newly appointed ministers reiterated their commitment made to the people of the state. The youngest Minister of the Sukhu Cabinet, Vikmramaditya Singh, said he will follow on the footsteps of his father (and six-time CM) Virbhadra Singh.
“I am thankful to Sonia Gandhi, the party leadership and chief minister. I am grateful to the leadership for being entrusted with a Cabinet rank at age of 32. I would follow on the footsteps of my father, late Virbhadra Singh, who was the six-time Chief minister of the state. Once portfolios are allocated, I would work to fullfil the promises made to the people,” Vikmramaditya said. The senior-most member of the Cabinet, Dr. Col. (retd) Dhani Ram Shandil, said he will work towards fulfilling the aspirations of the people and resource mobilisation will be the priority of the Congress government.
“People have given me a chance to serve them and I will faithfully discharge whatever responsibilities I am entrusted with. Our primary focus will be eradicating unemployment. All the promises, including provision of a monthly grant of Rs 1,500 to women, will be kept. We shall also focus on resource mobilisation,” said Shandil. Jagat Singh Negi, who bagged the Kinnaur Assembly seat, said, “Our prime agenda would be to work towards fulfilling the guarantees and promises made to the people of the state. We have already started working in that direction. We will also ensure resource mobilisation. The chief minister has stressed resource mobilisation. There are many sectors, including tourism and horticulture. I will sincerely discharge the responsibilities under the portfolio given to me,” said Negi.
Senior congress leader Chander Kumar, another senior member of the Sukhu Cabinet, said the government will work in the line with its new vision document for the state. Chander Kumar represents Kangra district from where the Congress won 10 seats. While he is the only Cabinet member to represent Kangra, 3 of the 8 party MLAs from Shimla have secured Cabinet berths.
“There will be a new vision document for the state. We shall prepare a roadmap and vision for the state. We want to build processing plants for agriculture and horticulture products. I am thankful to the party leadership for being given an opportunity to serve the state. We shall all work towards the development of the state,” Kumar said. Another young Cabinet member, Rohit Thakur from Shimla district, who represents the apple-producing Jubbal kotkhai Assembly segment, said all promises made to the people will be fulfilled on priority, and in a phased manner.
“We shall fulfill the promises in a phased manner — be it OPS or issues concerning women, youth, farmers and apple growers. Allocation of portfolios is the prerogative of the chief minister and we will give our best to whichever portfolio we are allocated. We will fulfil all promises in a phased manner,” said Thakur. Senior Congress leader Harshvardhan Chauhan, who was elected MLA from the Shillai constituency, said the Cabinet will collectively speed up development, which came to a halt under the BJP.
“We would collectively speed up development. We are a under a debt of over Rs 70,000 crores and it is our responsibility to ensure resource mobilisation and put our state on the path to development and progress. There are many sectors that need attention and boosting infrastructure, which includes building new roads and repairing old ones, is of prime concern. We shall also focus on tourism development and other areas that need a lift,” said Chauhan. The MLA from the Kasumpti area of Shimla, Anirudh Singh, said his prime focus would be to fulfill promises made to the people of his constituency and discharge his responsibilities as a minister.
“I am thankful to Sonia Gandhi and other party leaders and the Chief Minister for being a Cabinet rank. My first priority would be to work for the people of the constituency who voted for me and also serve sincerely as a minister. I will try to work for the youth,” said Anirudh Singh. After what was a close, see-saw battle for the Himayalan state, the Congress, on December 8, won the Assembly polls, bagging a total of 40 seats to the BJP’s 25.
However, the difference between the two parties in terms of vote share was less than 1 per cent.