Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader Virbhadra Singh will take the oath of office at the historic Ridge in Shimla on December 25, 10am.
Apart from the fact that he will get the chair for the sixth time, the Christmas day coronation is a strong political statement due to its venue, where Virbhadra was denied permission by the BJP government to celebrate his 78th birthday and 50 years in politics on June 23. A union minister at that time, Virbhadra had then held his birthday rally at the Shimla Skating Rink instead.
However, the irony is that when BJP's Prem Kumar Dhumal had held his oath-taking on the Ridge in 2007, the Congress had objected to it terming it an unwelcome break in tradition that was hurting the "sanctity" of the Ridge maidan (ground). Now, when governor Urmila Singh will administer the oath to Virbhadra, he will become only the second CM-designate after Dhumal to get the chair formally at the venue.
In fact, when the Ridge was not given as a rally venue to him in June, Virbhadra's supporters had argued that the maidan was routinely used for holding religious sermons and the annual summer fest. The Ridge has been used for political rallies, too, including when the then PM Indira Gandhi addressed a gathering here on January 25, 1972, the day Himachal attained statehood.
With the December 25 function, Virbhadra will also break away from his self-set precedence of taking oath at the Raj Bhawan.
Earlier in the day, Congress national general secretary Birender Singh along with few of the legislators went to the Raj Bhawan to hand over MLAs' letters of support. By noon, the Raj Bhawan sent a formal letter to Virbhadra inviting him to form the next government. It is likely that Virbhadra would take oath alone, and the ministers would be appointed later.