SHIMLA:  After a big show of strength as Gujarat’s new government was sworn in, Team BJP is in Himachal Pradesh this morning, where the party’s Jai Ram Thakur took oath as chief minister this morning.

As they did in Gandhinagar yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP President Amit Shah, several Union ministers and chief ministers of BJP-ruled states are attending the oath ceremony in Shimla. The BJP retained Gujarat and snatched Himachal Pradesh from the Congress in a 2-0 result as votes were counted for assembly elections in the two states last week. Himachal is the 19th state where the BJP is in power.

The oath ceremony for Mr Thakur and his ministers is being held at the historic Ridge Maidan in Shimla, which has turned saffron with BJP flags fluttering all around and big cut outs of PM Modi, Amit Shah and Jai Ram Thakur dominating the landscape.

 “People have shown faith in us, will try to meet their expectations,” Mr Thakur said this morning. The 52-year-old five-time legislator was picked to be the hill state’s 14th chief minister after PK Dhumal, projected by the BJP for the top post, lost his election even as the party swept 44 of the state’s 68 seats.
Mr Thakur’s selection is seen as a generational shift in a state where the BJP and Congress had projected much older men for the top post – the Congress’ Virbhadra Singh is 83, while PK Dhumal is 73. He has been the party’s state unit chief and a minister in a government headed by Mr Dhumal in the past.

As votes were counted last week and it became clear that PK Dhumal was headed for a defeat, Jai Ram Thakur was the first off the block to take a flight to Delhi to meet the party’s central leadership.

Mr Thakur has said that his ministerial team, expected to have 11 members, will be a blend of old and new faces. “The cabinet will have both experienced and new faces,” he had told reporters in his first official interaction with reporters on Monday, a day after being elected BJP Legislature Party leader in the Assembly.

The names are yet to be announced officially, but, the likely line-up is likely to be: Mahender Singh Rajput, Suresh Bhardwaj, Anil Sharma, Sarveen Chaudhary, Ram Lal Markandey, Vipin Parmar, Virendra Kanwar, Vikram Singh, Govind Thakur and Rajiv Sehjal.

Massive security and other arrangements have been made for the grand function and the Ridge, Annandale helipad and Jubbar-Hatti airport are under the protection of the Special Protection Group or SPG. It will be the fourth time that the oath ceremony is taking place outside the Raj Bhawan and at the Ridge.

Most of those flying in landed at the Jubbar-Hatti airport and then went to the Annandale helipad by chopper, finally driving up to the venue in a motorcade to avoid disruption of normal traffic. A corridor is being kept clear for emergency services like the movement of ambulances.

LCD screens have been set up outside the oath venue for people who are unable to get into the ground.

Jai Ram Thakur, a five-time legislator was picked as the new chief minister of Himachal on Sunday, a day after Prem Kumar Dhumal — whom the BJP had named as its prospective Chief Minister 10 days before the elections – pulled out of the race.