Gaikhangam, Deben and Tonsing inducted

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IMPHAL, March 16: Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh today inducted 3 ministers in his Cabinet, with state Congress chief Gaikhangam as his second-in-command, in the first ever expansion of his 3-day old government. The next expansion is expected in the first week of April this year.

State Governor Gurbachan Jagat administered the oath of office and secrecy to PCC Chief Gaikhangam, senior leaders Th Debendra Singh and Phungzathang Tonsing, in a glittering ceremony held at the Banquet Hall of Imphal Raj Bhavan today afternoon at 4 pm.

The swearingin ceremony was attended by the Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh, members of his former Cabinet including his arch-rival Yumkham Erabot Singh and newly elected MLAs, besides top ranking civil and security officials.

Former Minister Erabot was one of the notable absentees on March 14, when Okram Ibobi Singh was sworn in as the CM for the third time in a row.

Speaking to the media on the sidelines of the ceremony CM Ibobi Singh said, the portfolios of the new ministers will be distributed tomorrow.

When asked why he is side-stepping a full expansion today CM Ibobi said, ‘I am opting for a phased expansion. Today is for the senior leaders.’

The Chief Minister was non-committal on the tentative date of his next expansion, but hinted at April first week. He said, ‘We will be busy till March 31.’

He evaded direct questions on the possible representation of youth, minorities and women in his new Cabinet. When asked whether he will be keeping the important Finance portfolio for himself he said, ‘Everything will be known by tomorrow.’

Informed sources however said, the Chief Minister is likely to retain Finance while the other important portfolio Home could be given to Gaikhangam.

Minister Phungzathang kept mum, when asked about his resentment at the denial of No 2 position.

Th Debendra however intervened and said, ‘Gaikhangam is the natural choice as he is the incumbent President while Phungzathang is a former President.’

The Chief Minister said, ‘We are deciding tonight on who would be the next Speaker.’ He refused to give any hint.

He once again reiterated, ‘Our main focus this time will be on power, safe drinking water and communications.’

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