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Vidya to be in Virbhadra team

Virbhadra Singh will be sworn in as HP CM on Thursday with a team of around 13 Cabinet ministers including PCC chief Vidya Stokes.

india Updated: Mar 06, 2003 01:34 IST

Virbhadra Singh will be sworn in as Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh for the fifth time on Thursday, with a team of around 13 Cabinet ministers including PCC chief Vidya Stokes, till recently considered a claimant for the top slot.

"There will be no deputy chief minister," Singh said after his 10-minute meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the evening. Mohsina Kidwai, general secretary in charge of Himachal, was more circumspect. "So far that issue has not come up," she said guardedly.

There was no word yet on the party's nominee for the Speaker's post. But in keeping with the one-person one-post principle, Stokes is expected to step down as PCC chief once she joins Singh's ministry, reportedly at the high command's behest. The new state president would be an appointee who would work in tandem with the chief minister for greater party-government coordination ahead of the crucial 2004 Lok Sabha polls.

"We want Congress rule at the Centre with Sonia Gandhi as Prime Minister. We will try and win all the Lok Sabha seats in the state," a confident Singh told reporters. He also talked of expanding his ministry to give it a second tier after the assembly's budget session is over in March-April.

The Himachal strongman, who resisted a tie-up with Sukh Ram's Himachal Vikas Congress and squashed efforts, however feeble, to keep him out of the chief ministerial slot, had earlier quipped that forming a cabinet was perhaps more difficult than fighting the elections.

By proposing Stokes' induction into his team, Singh also gave substance to his claim of carrying all sections along with him, including those who were upset or nursed greater ambitions. "I have been chief minister and I know the art of balancing. That is why I have survived. I have no ego problems," he told the Hindustan Times.