While chief minister Virbhadra Singh has attempted to strike a balance between castes and regions while forming the cabinet, the newly appointed ministers are now squabbling over portfolios. The day after ministers took oath, there seems to be apparent logjam over allocation of portfolios. For
the second day on Wednesday, there was no official word either from Raj Bhavan or the chief minister's office about allocation of portfolios to the nine cabinet ministers.
"Who would get what" was the topic that dominated the discussions at public places, government offices and political circles. Till Wednesday there were speculations that portfolios could be announced late in evening but it did not happen.
Adding much to the anxiety of the ministers and their ardent supporters, there was no decision on portfolios even as All India Congress Committee general secretary Birender Singh, who is in charge of Himachal, was in Shimla till late afternoon.
Birender Singh along with senior Congress leader GS Bali flew to Delhi in a chartered plane to meet central leaders to end the logjam over the ministerial berths.
Reliable sources have told Hindustan Times that the chief minister, prior to the swearing-in ceremony, had called on AICC president Sonia Gandhi and had discussed tentative list of the council of ministers. It is learnt that senior ministers have expressed their displeasure over the portfolios proposed by chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
Till late night there were speculations that Vidya Stokes, the senior most minister, could get Public Works Department, but there was a hitch since another minister who was offered Irrigation and Public Health Department was keen on getting the PWD portfolio. Stokes was also not very keen on the Power portfolio which she held during the previous Congress regime. It is also learnt chief minister Virbhadra Singh, who repeatedly targeted the BJP government over bad condition of roads, is keen to keep the PWD portfolio with himself. The bad condition of roads was one of the rallying points in the assembly elections.
Kaul Singh, who is the senior most minister next to Vidya Stokes, left for Delhi in the afternoon. "The purpose of my visit is only to express gratitude to AICC president Sonia Gandhi. It's Sonia jee and Rahul jees' efforts that enabled the Congress to regain power in Himachal," he said while he parried queries about his resentment to the ministry that was offered to him. "Though I have made no choice but certainly important ministries should be allocated keeping in mind the seniority," he said.
Congress' veteran leader GS Bali who was vying to become the deputy chief minister is demanding major portfolios. Bali has been offered health department, but he is insisting on his old departments, transport and tourism.
It is learnt that Vidya Stokes too left for New Delhi after chief minister Virbhadra Singh flew to Delhi to attend the meeting of national development council. It is likely that the decision on the portfolios will be announced in a day or so after the high command clears the names. Two-time Lok Sabha member Dhani Ram Shandil was offered the education portfolio, while Sujan Singh Pathania the agriculture. Sudhir Sharma is being given tourism and urban development.
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