New Delhi: In a generational shift in the politics of Himachal Pradesh, Jai Ram Thakur was sworn in as the 14th chief minister of the state on Wednesday after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wrested power in the assembly elections.

The five-time member of legislative assembly (MLA) from the Seraj constituency in Mandi district took oath along with 11 other ministers at a ceremony held at the Ridge ground in Shimla, which was attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah, and veteran leader L.K. Advani, among others.

Thakur became the first chief minister from Mandi—the second largest district in the state.

In a shocking defeat, two-time chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal lost the Sujanpur assembly seat despite being instrumental in the BJP’s victory. The party won 44 of the 68 assembly seats with a vote share of 48.8%. Dhumal’s withdrawal from the race to be chief minister paved the way for 52-year-old Thakur’s nomination on Saturday.

“The people of Himachal have shown faith in us, we will try to meet their expectations," Thakur said before taking oath of office.

Congratulating the newly appointed state cabinet, Modi tweeted, “Congratulations to Shri Jairam Thakur and all those who took oath today. I am confident this team will work tirelessly and serve the people of Himachal Pradesh with exceptional diligence."

Sarveen Chaudhry, a four-time MLA and former minister, is the only woman in the cabinet. The new ministers include Mohinder Singh, Krishan Kapoor, Suresh Bharadwaj, Anil Sharma, Ram Lal Markanda, Vipin Parmar, Virender Kanwar, Gobind Thakur, Rajiv Saizal and Vikram Singh.

Anil Sharma, who deserted the Congress just before the elections in October to join the BJP, has been a four-term MLA from Mandi and served as minister in the Virbhadra Singh cabinet when the Congress was voted to power in 1993 and 2012.

The districts of Mandi, Kangra (the largest in the state), Shimla, Solan, Kullu, Una, and Lahaul and Spiti have been given representation in the state cabinet.

Interestingly, Bilaspur and Hamirpur, home districts of Union health minister J.P. Nadda and Dhumal, as well as Chamba and Sirmaur, have been left unrepresented.

Political analysts say the appointment of Thakur at the helm of affairs in the state is a safe choice for the BJP.

“Power in the state had been alternating between Congress’s Virbhadra Singh and BJP’s Prem Kumar Dhumal. The entry of Jai Ram is a good choice to lead the party as the BJP was also looking for a candidate who will be able to fetch votes for the upcoming 2019 Lok Sabha elections." said Vikas Singh, assistant professor of political science at Himachal Pradesh University.

“Even though caste isn’t a major factor in Himachal, the fact that Rajputs comprise about 42-43% of the state’s population means that a chief minister from that community will definitely stabilize state politics. He has a clean image, is popular among people, has been an RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) member and was also active in student politics. He also fits the bill of the BJP promoting younger leadership," Singh added.

PTI contributed to this story.

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