The Congress has managed – for now, at least – the squabbling among rival factions in its Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan units: the senior contenders in both states bagged the top posts.
Madhya Pradesh Congress chief and campaign in-charge Kamal Nath would take oath as chief minister on Monday, Dec 17, with the other contender Jyotiranditya Scindia relenting after being persuaded by Congress leadership in prolonged discussions.
There were indications that Jyotiraditya Scindia was offered the deputy CM’s post but he responded that he would prefer to work for the organisation. He may become a general secretary in the All India Congress Committee.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi consulted, among others, his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi as well in sorting things out. He also reached out to the ground level party workers to ask their top choice for the post. Using an internal messaging platform for the party workers, he sent out to them a pre-recorded audio message seeking their feedback for selection of the chief minister in their respective states.
Convincing contenders and persuading them was the challenge. A decision on Rajasthan took much longer than MP (which was sorted out yesterday night), and could be taken only by today evening. It was finally announced that former chief minister Ashok Gehlot would be the chief minister while the other strong contender Sachin Pilot, who wanted his efforts of five years rewarded, would be deputy chief minister.
Sachin Pilot, reported ANI, will also continue to be the Rajasthan Congress Chief.
Addressing the media, senior Congress leader KC Venugopal said, “Ashok Gehlot will be the Chief Minister of Rajasthan. Sachin Pilot will be the Deputy Chief Minister. Experience and leadership will come together in the state.”
The announcement came after several hours of deliberations and meetings with the party high command for an amicable settlement amid a clear tussle between the old and the young guard.
Amid reports of highway protests by Congress workers, Sachin Pilot appealed on twitter for “peace and decorum” and said he would welcome “whatever Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi decide”.
A decision was still pending on Chhattisgarh. The contenders for the top job in the state – TS Singh Deo, Bhupesh Baghel, Tamradhwaj Sahu and Charan Das Mahant – arrived in the national capital for talks today.
On the CM’s post, Chhattisgarh Congress chief and another contender Bhupesh Baghel told ANI, “We have given the authority to the high command to decide the name (of the CM); whatever they decide, we’ll go by it.”
Amid protests against Kamal Nath’s appointment as Madhya Pradesh CM, Punjab CM Amarinder Singh said the law was taking its due course as far as Nath’s alleged involvement in the 1984 riots is concerned.
Singh also pointed out that Nath had served as a central minister for more than 10 years after the allegations had first surfaced and that a mere reference about the MP CM in the Nanavati Commission report cannot be construed as his involvement in the case.
Nath has been accused of playing a role in the 1984 killings of Sikhs in Delhi. He was then the minister of road transport and highways, and has been questioned by the Nanavati Commission about his role. Nath is said to have been present for at least two hours during the five-hour violence against Sikhs at the Rakab Ganj Gurudwara, in which two Sikh men were burnt alive. His presence has been confirmed by multiple sources, as Manoj Mitta and HS Phoolka have written in their book.
In 2016, Kamal Nath was appointed the Congress’s state chief in Punjab but had to be removed within a few days after widespread protests.
Meanwhile, K Chandrashekar Rao was sworn-in as the Telangana Chief Minister on Thursday, Dec 13, storming back to power for the second consecutive term and with a bigger mandate. Known for his penchant for Vastu and Astrology, KCR decided upon taking oath at 1.34 pm following advice from Laxmi Narayan Acharya, the chief priest of the Yadadri temple.
The TRS was elected back to power on December 11 after winning a thumping majority in the Telangana Assembly. It won 87 seats in the 119-member House, and 47 per cent of the vote share in the state.