New Delhi: Armed with numbers to form governments in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, the elected Congress MLAs on Wednesday authorised party president Rahul Gandhi to decide the chief ministers as senior leaders, including top contenders, held hectic parleys through the day and till late at night. Party leaders say the names could now be announced on Thursday after Gandhi meets the observers appointed for the three states and other senior leaders.
Gandhi, on the other hand, has also reached out directly to the party workers in the three states to know their top choice for the chief minister’s post through an internal mobile messaging app, party leaders said.
In Rajasthan, two-time former Chief Minister and General Secretary of All India Congress Committee Ashok Gehlot, and former Member of Parliament and Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot are in line for the CM post. One is a party veteran and the other is a popular young leader. The Congress faces the same dilemma in Madhya Pradesh as well with Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia in the fray.
After a late-night meeting, Pilot told waiting reporters that the process of getting the feedback was almost complete and the party high-command would take the final decision on Thursday. He did not give any direct reply to a pointed question on whether he was ready to take the responsibility, saying "Let's see, what happens".
In Madhya Pradesh, where three-time Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tendered his resignation to Governor Anandiben Patel, the Congress team that later met the governor to stake claim to form the government included two top contenders for the top job — Nath and Scindia.
Scindia also later told reporters that a final decision was expected on Thursday but he did tell CNN-News18 that “it will be a privilege if given the chance to be Madhya Pradesh CM”.
In all the three states where Congress has emerged victorious signalling a newfound energy in the party ranks to stop the BJP juggernaut before the 2019 general elections, the newly elected MLAs met in the presence of party's central observers, while party leaders also met governors in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to stake government formation claims.
Central observers AK Antony for Madhya Pradesh and KC Venugopal for Rajasthan took the opinion of newly-elected MLAs, party leaders said. Senior party leaders in the national capital said the meetings of MLAs and authorising the party chief is part of an established process within the party for selecting the chief ministers.
The Congress emerged as the single-largest party in Rajasthan in Tuesday's vote count, winning 99 seats. Its ally Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) won one seat for a total of 100 seats — the required number to form government. The BJP got 73 seats, and the Bahujan Samaj Party won 6 seats. BSP leader Mayawati pledged support for the Congress. The CPI(M) got two seats, Independents won 13 and other parties got 6, according to the state Election Commission.
After a see-saw battle on Tuesday, the Congress on Wednesday secured 114 seats, two short of a simple majority. The BJP, which had ruled the state for 15 years, got 109 seats. Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav announced their parties' support to the Congress in Madhya Pradesh, where BSP has got two and SP one seat. The Congress has also claimed support of the four independents, all party rebels, who have emerged victorious.