From its lowest ever tally in 2013 to waiting at the door to form the government, the Congress in Rajasthan has reasons to celebrate, even though it did not notch up as impressive a victory as many had expected.
In 2013, under then Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, the party had managed 33.07 per cent votes but only 21 seats, compared to the BJP’s 45.17 per cent votes — and 163 seats.
The party’s pre-poll alliance on five seats — with RLD (two seats), Sharad Yadav’s Loktantrik Janata Dal (two) and NCP (one) — did not yield much dividend, with only Subhash Garg winning from Bharatpur on an RLD ticket, but party leaders said these alliances were stitched with 2019 General Elections in mind, and to send a “small but powerful” message of unity.
The Congress has convened a meeting of new MLAs at 11 am Wednesday. It is expected to take suggestions of the MLAs on the next CM. Senior Congress leader K C Venugopal has been appointed observer for Rajasthan. On counting day, both Pilot and Gehlot remained tight-lipped about their candidature as the next chief minister.
“The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting will take place tomorrow in the presence of our party observer Venugopal-ji; (party’s) state in-charge Avinash Pandey will also be present. What is important for us is to form not just a Congress government but a people’s government,” Pilot said.
Gehlot told the media: “It has become clear that the mandate is for the Congress. It has always been the tradition in Rajasthan that suggestions are taken in the meeting of legislators, and following that the high command takes a decision. The process will be followed this time too.”
Pandey said a resolution will be passed at the CLP meeting and the new MLAs will meet again on Wednesday evening.
According to senior Congress leaders, both Gehlot and Pilot factions are busy trying to get support of MLAs before the meeting. “If the Congress had received a thumping majority, Pilot’s candidature would have become clearer. Leaders loyal to him are now trying to convince other MLAs that Congress emerged single largest party under his leadership,” a party leader said.
Another Congress leader pointed out that MLAs loyal to Gehlot hope that in absence of a clear majority the party would require Gehlot’s experience and he will emerge as the CM candidate.
Vasundhara Raje, who submitted her resignation to Governor Kalyan Singh, assured the people that she and the BJP will be the voice of the people in the Assembly.