The Congress is yet to decide on its chief ministerial candidate in Rajasthan with senior leaders maintaining that a decision will be taken after a meeting with party president Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi on Thursday. A delegation of senior party leaders, including state Congress president Sachin Pilot and former Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot met Governor Kalyan Singh on Wednesday evening to stake claim to form the government, a day after the Congress emerged as the single largest party in Rajasthan with 99 seats.
The Congress headquarters in Jaipur witnessed high drama as supporters of Pilot and Gehlot came out in large numbers, shouting slogans in support of their leader’s candidature for the top post.
Newly-elected Congress MLAs were called to the party headquarters for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting on Wednesday morning.
“After the elected representatives will express their views, the high command will take a decision (on leadership) and this has been a tradition of the Congress. The decision will be taken after considering all political situations because we also have to go in the parliamentary elections,” senior Congress leader CP Joshi said on his way to the CLP meeting.
However, a delegation of six Independent MLAs who are Congress rebels, met Gehlot at his residence in the morning. “I am ready to lend my support to the Congress on the condition that Gehlot is made the chief minister… A party should not deny tickets to deserving candidates just because they are supporters of certain leaders,” said Ramkesh Meena, Gangapur MLA.
Among other Independent MLAs who met Gehlot were Babulal Nagar, Laxman Meena and Raj Kumar Gaur.
However, Congress leaders said that the final decision will be taken by the high command.
“…This is not a hung Assembly. Rahul Gandhi ji has always said that there should be a healthy mix of young and experienced people in the party,” said Pilot.
The CLP meeting stretched for nearly six hours during which each MLA’s opinion was sought by leaders in-charge of the state and K C Venugopal, the party’s observer for Rajasthan.
“Neither Pilot nor Gehlot are willing to let go of their candidatures… Several first-time winners along with veteran leaders such as Master Bhanwarlal Meghwal and Jitendra Singh were supporting Pilot while Gehlot’s supporters were mostly seasoned legislators who have also been part of his government in the past,” said a senior Congress leader who was present at the meeting.
The Congress was falling one short of the majority mark earlier, but can now form the government without help of the Independent MLAs after BSP chief Mayawati on Wednesday said that her party is willing to extend support to the Congress. The BSP has six legislators in Rajasthan.