Gehlot emerges top choice for Rajasthan CM, Pilot puts up spirited claim (Roundup)
New Delhi/Jaipur : Veteran Congress leader Ashok Gehlot on Thursday emerged Rahul Gandhi's pick as the Chief Minister in Rajasthan, but suspense continued the with state party chief Sachin Pilot putting up his claim strongly as the two leaders had late night meetings with the Congress President.
Both Pilot and Gehlot had separate meetings with Gandhi, unlike in Madhya Pradesh where the two aspirants -- Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia -- had met him together.
Party observer for Rajasthan K. C. Venugopal, who was also at the meetings, told the media later that taking decision on leadership was not easy but it will be announced on Friday.
"Taking decision on CM is not an easy job. The final decision will be taken tomorrow in a meeting to be held here around 10 a.m.," he said.
Pilot, who had a meeting with Gandhi earlier in the day, reached Gandhi's residence at 10.30 p.m on Thursday.
The meeting came hours after the leadership issue was settled in Madhya Pradesh, with Gandhi tweeting his picture with Kamal Nath and Scindia, who were both chief ministerial aspirants. The smiling picture carried the line "The two most powerful warriors are patience and time - Leo Tolstoy."
Kamal Nath was chosen as the new Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh and both he and Scindia flew down to Bhopal to announce the decision.
Party sources said Gandhi is keen to give a similar message for Rajasthan as well.
Both in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the Congress missed the majority mark by two seats and is now dependent on some external support.
Pilot, who stayed put in Delhi, appealed to party workers to maintain peace and saying that he would "welcome" any decision that will be taken by the party.
He issued the appeal on Twitter as reports emerged that Gehlot has been picked by the party leadership to lead the government and that his (Pilot's) supporters were protesting on the streets demanding that Pilot should be made the Chief Minister.
The name of 67-year-old Gehlot, a two-time Chief Minister, is expected to be announced by the party on Friday.
Earlier, Gehlot and Pilot met Rahul Gandhi. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is understood to have counselled Rahul Gandhi over relying on "experience" as it was a verdict with a narrow margin of victory and a seasoned leader would be better equipped to deal with a situation in which the party would need the backing of MLAs belonging to BSP and Independents, who won 13 seats. Most of them are Congress rebels.
The party won 99 seats and with its pre-poll alliance partner it managed to touch the halfway mark in the 200-member Assembly.
Pilot reportedly put up a strong claim to the post on the ground that he had galvanised the party after the defeat in 2013, when he was appointed the state party chief.
Gehlot, who was planning to leave for Jaipur but was asked to stay back in Delhi, also appealed to workers to maintain peace and said any decision taken by the leadership will be acceptable to all.
Asked by the media why he returned from the airport, he said he could leave at night or on Friday accompanied by central party observer K.C. Venugopal and Avinash Pande, who is the party in charge in the state.
About the delay in announcing a decision, Gehlot said: "Such decisions take time because three states are involved. It is good that the leadership has decided to consult various leaders and workers."
Replying to another question, he said, "What right BJP has to question us on the decisions? A signal has gone from the elections to the country that those who created an atmosphere of hate have been wiped out from the Hindi heartland. And this is what will happen in the Lok Sabha elections too."
On Tuesday and Wednesday, the central Congress observers met the newly elected MLAs in a bid to find out who they would prefer as Chief Minister.
The MLAs authorised Gandhi to take the call on the Chief Minister's name.
Both Gehlot and Pilot had also called on Governor Kalyan Singh on Wednesday evening and staked claim to form the government. Both contested the Assembly elections and won their seats.