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Congress leaders Ashok Gehlot and Kamal Nath were sworn in as chief ministers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh respectively today (Monday, Dec 17), with Sachin Pilot also taking oath as cabinet minister and is named the deputy chief minister in Rajasthan.

In Chhattisgarh, the swearing in of Bhupesh Baghel, whom the Congress chose to head the government in acknowledgement of his efforts in leading the party to a massive victory in the state, was held up due to torrential rains that also forced a shift of venue from Science College ground to Balbir Singh Juneja Indoor Stadium in Raipur. The ceremony, scheduled for 5 PM, may be delayed.

Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh administered the oath of office to Gehlot and Pilot in the presence of Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the Albert Hall here. The governor said on the suggestion of Gehlot, Pilot will be deputy chief minister of Rajasthan. Gehlot took the oath as the chief minister of Rajasthan for the third time.

Several leaders from the Congress and its alliance partners from across the country attended the event. Large number of the party members and supporters were present in the oath ceremony.

Outgoing Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje, NCP’s Sharad Pawar, LJD leader Sharad Yadav, former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, Janata Dal (Secular) president HD Kumaraswamy, DMK leader MK Stalin, JMM leader Hemant Soren, JVM leader Babulal Marandi were among others who were present at the ceremony.

Earlier, Gehlot, Pilot and other leaders received Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh at the airport and left for the Albert Hall in a bus amid tight security arrangements.

After the event in Rajasthan, Congress veteran Kamal Nath Monday was sworn in as Madhya Pradesh chief minister. The nine-time Chhindwara Lok Sabha MP was administered oath of office by Governor Anandiben Patel at the Jamboree Maidan in Bhopal.

Gehlot had earlier written letters to the Opposition leaders inviting them to his oath ceremony. “Assembly election is not just a victory for the Congress party but is also a victory of progressive politics, a victory for those who uphold the constitution of India and believe in the nation’s diversity and plurality,” he wrote.

The swearing-in ceremonies were marked by a show of solidarity by opposition leaders who, along with Congress president, zipped from one state capital to the other to attend the programme, though a few notable absentees also drew comments.

Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) president Mayawati gave the events a miss. Mayawati and Yadav are, however, supporting the new Congress governments in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. West Bengal chief minister Banerjee has sent a representative, unlike the other two leaders from Uttar Pradesh.

One significant guest at the Rajasthan ceremony was Sanjay Singh of Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party. His presence added to theories that the AAP and Congress are trying to overcome years of acrimony in a bid to see the BJP defeated in 2019.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has dispatched her party lawmaker Dinesh Trivedi to attend the Madhya Pradesh event. Kamal Nath told NDTV Ms Banerjee had said she was observing her mother’s death anniversary today. About Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati’s absence, Kamal Nath said: “She had a genuine reason, she told me she had pulled a nerve.”

The absence of the two leaders, along with that of Akhilesh Yadav, means the ceremonies won’t be the dazzling opposition parade first seen at the oath of Kumaraswamy in Karnataka in May this year. The Karnataka oath ceremony earlier this year of HD Kumaraswamy of the Janata Dal Secular, backed by the Congress, was seen as the big bang start of an opposition effort to unite to take on the BJP in next year’s national election.

Opposition leaders came together on Sunday too, at a rally in Chennai, where MK Stalin of key ally Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) proposed that Rahul Gandhi be projected as the prime ministerial candidate of a joint opposition, saying he has the “ability to defeat the fascist BJP”.

The Congress has said it prefers to leave the leadership issue of an anti-BJP alliance for after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

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