Congress aims to strengthen grip in Himachal Pradesh with Cabinet expansion”

Shimla, June 26

The seven-month-old cabinet of Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu is expected to undergo further expansion as the hunt for three new faces continues to fill the remaining vacant posts.
According to a senior party functionary, the AICC has managed to reach a consensus on two new cabinet members, including Rajesh Dharmani, a three-time member of the Ghumarwin Assembly, and Yadvender Goma, a two-time member of the Jaisinghpur Assembly in Kangra. However, the party has yet to finalize the third member, with former minister Sudhir Sharma from the Dharmshala Assembly and three-time MLA Rajinder Rana from the Sujanpur Assembly being considered.

Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu, Party State Chief Pratibha Singh, and senior Congress leader Kaul Singh Thakur recently met with party president Malikarujan Kharge, but they were unable to shortlist the third member for induction.

It is worth mentioning that the Congress President is advocating for the inclusion of Sudhir Sharma and Rajinder Rana in the council of ministers. However, AICC is hesitant to induct Sharma due to concerns about his loyalty to the Congress, as there have been allegations of his connection with the BJP and fence-sitters. The party is willing to induct Rana, but it could upset the district’s balance, including the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat, as it already has the Chief Minister, Deputy CM, and two more cabinet members.
Party President Pratibha Singh is expected to visit Delhi on Tuesday to further discuss the issue, and after reaching a consensus, three more faces will be inducted soon. In addition to filling the cabinet, there are three other vacant positions in the Himachal Pradesh Vidhan Sabha, including Deputy Speaker, Chief Whip, and Deputy Whip, all of which hold the rank of a cabinet minister.

The party is likely to induct Chandershaikhar, a one-time MLA from the Dharmpur Assembly, as the Chief Whip or Deputy Speaker in the upcoming Monsoon session. The Congress cannot afford to ignore the district and party faction equations any longer, especially with the upcoming Lok Sabha elections next year.

According to a party survey conducted by an agency hired by the grand old party following the Karnataka election, the forecast for Congress in all four Lok Sabha seats in Himachal Pradesh is a warning sign for the Sukhu Government.
Confirming the cabinet induction, Sukhu stated that three more ministers would be inducted soon, as reported by the local media. However, according to party insiders, due to dissent with the Congress State President, the party has not finalized all three names, although there is a broad consensus on Dharmani and Goma. The government has indicated that the induction will take place before the end of this month. This will be the third induction in the Sukhu Government within the last seven months.
With the 2024 Lok Sabha elections approaching, the Congress cannot afford to lose any seats in Himachal Pradesh. This could mount political pressure on Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu to ensure the fulfillment of the ten guarantees, as only one guarantee of OPS has been achieved so far, which is also facing several hurdles due to the central government’s refusal to refund the NPS contribution of Rs 9,000 crore made by the state.


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