SHIMLA — Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and his 11 ministers – half of them first-timers – Dec. 27 took the oath of office at an impressive ceremony attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah, among others.
Governor Acharya Devvrat administered the oath of office and secrecy to Thakur, who will turn 53 Jan. 6. This will be his maiden term as chief minister.
The swearing-in ceremony at the historic Ridge here was also attended by Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, J.P. Nadda and Nitin Gadkari, along with chief ministers of BJP-ruled states, and more than 30,000 party supporters from across the state, mostly in traditional attire.
BJP veteran and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was also present.
Five-time legislator Thakur, who rose through the ranks and is known for his humble, clean and low-profile nature, took the oath in Hindi. He previously served as the Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Minister when Prem Kumar Dhumal was chief minister in 2007-12.
Thakur's family members, including his 80-year-old widowed mother who lives in a remote village in Mandi district, attended the ceremony.
"This is the victory of the common man," said Thakur's wife Sadhna Thakur, a doctor by profession, before the ceremony.
The 12-member ministry has six former ministers and an equal number of first-timers in a blend of experienced and new faces. It has six Rajputs, including the chief minister, and three Brahmins.
The others who took oath were former Cabinet Ministers Mohinder Singh, Kishan Kapoor, Sarveen Chaudhary and Anil Sharma; former Minister of State Ram Lal Markanday; and new faces Suresh Bhardwaj, Vipin Singh Parmar, Virender Kanwar, Vikram Thakur, Gobind Thakur and Rajeev Sahjal, who is a doctor.
Sarveen Chaudhary is the lone woman minister in the cabinet and a member of the Other Backward Classes.
The ministers took the oath in Hindi, except Bhardwaj and Gobind Thakur, who took the oath in Sanskrit.
Senior legislators and former Cabinet Ministers Rajeev Bindal, Narender Bragta and Ramesh Dhawala did not find place in the cabinet.
Bindal was named as the Speaker of the assembly.
The BJP won a majority with 44 seats in the 68-member state assembly.
Thakur is the first chief minister from Mandi, the second biggest district of Himachal after Kangra. In these elections, the BJP won nine out of the 10 assembly seats in Mandi.
The BJP took almost a week to choose the chief minister after its chief ministerial candidate Dhumal lost the election. Several names were circulated, including those of Nadda, Suresh Bharadwaj, Dhumal and Thakur.
A decision on Thakur's name was made unanimously Dec. 24 at the BJP Legislative Party meeting here, where central observers Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and Narendra Singh Tomar were present.
Outgoing Congress Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh and his former cabinet colleagues were conspicuously absent from the ceremony.