Rajputs are the dominant caste group in the state (accounting for one-third of the population) and half the cabinet hails from the community.
Chandigarh: As 52 year-old Jai Ram Thakur took oath as Himachal Pradesh’s 13th chief minister Wednesday, the stamp of the dominant Rajput caste was visible all over the BJP’s new government in the state.
The oath-taking ceremony took place in Shimla Wednesday morning, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah, several Union ministers and other BJP CMs in attendance.
Rajputs are the dominant caste in the state, with almost 33 per cent of the total population, and Thakur’s 12-member council of ministers includes six — the CM himself, seven-time MLA Mahender Singh, Vipin Singh Parmar, Virender Kunwar, Bikram Singh, and Govind Singh Thakur.
Historically, too, Rajputs have dominated Himachal Pradesh politics – all past chief ministers except the BJP’s Shanta Kumar have belonged to the community.
The state’s 18 per cent Brahmins are represented in the council of ministers by Anil Sharma, son of former Union telecom minister Sukh Ram, and Suresh Bhardwaj.
Sarveen Chaudhary, the only woman in the cabinet, and Kishan Kapoor represent the OBCs.
There is also one member each from the Scheduled Castes — Rajeev Saijal — and the Scheduled Tribes — Ram Lal Markandeya (a Brahmin who is MLA from the tribal seat of Lahaul & Spiti).
In terms of representation of districts, Mandi and Kangra are at the forefront, while Hamirpur, the borough of former CM Prem Kumar Dhumal, who lost the polls this time, has been ignored, owing to the party’s dismal performance.
Mandi is represented by the CM, Anil Sharma and Mahender Singh. Kangra is represented by Chaudhary, Kapoor, Parmar and Vikram Singh. There is one minister each from Una, Kullu, Solan and Shimla districts.
A mix of old and new
Shanta Kumar first became CM in 1977 when he was just about 43 years old. Virbhadra Singh, too, was just 51 when he first sat on the hot seat in 1985. But since then, Himachal Pradesh has seen increasingly older chief ministers. But not anymore.
At 52, Thakur represents a generational change in government, and has brought a younger council of ministers with him. Seven ministers are less than 60 years of age, five of whom are less than 55 and two are less than 50. Rajeev Saijal, the SC MLA from Kasauli, is the youngest in the cabinet at 46.
Five members of the cabinet — Kapoor, Mahender Singh, Chaudhary, Sharma, and Markandeya — have previously served as ministers, while the others are fresh faces.
Meanwhile, five-time MLA and former cabinet minister Rajeev Bindal has been named the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly.