With the results of assembly elections finally in, the Congress today (Wednesday, Dec 12) staked its claim to form government in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh – although it was yet to decide who the chief minister would be in any of them – where it was just short of the majority mark.
It can afford to wait and finalise its chief ministerial candidate in Chhattisgarh where it had a landslide victory.
In Rajasthan, where the two chief ministerial candidates, Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot, contested and won the assembly polls, the Congress legislature party (CLP) met and passed a resolution leaving the choice of CM to Congress president Rahul Gandhi.
“We have full majority and will stake claim to form government in the evening. We will take along all non-BJP parties and elected members who are against BJP and are willing to support us,” Pilot told reporters at the Pradesh Congress Committee before the Congress Legislative Party meeting.
In Madhya Pradesh, the contenders are veteran Congress leader, its state president and election campaign in-charge Kamal Nath and the younger generation senior leader Jyotiraditya Scindia. A Congress delegation led by Kamal Nath met the MP governor Anandiben Patel and staked its claim to form government with the support of 121 MLAs.
Earlier, Shivraj Singh Chouhan submitted his resignation to MP governor Anandiben Patel. Chouhan said he takes full responsibility for BJP’s defeat in Madhya Pradesh, where the party has bagged 109 seats. He also congratulated Congress leader Kamal Nath.
The Congress was two short of majority in both Rajasthan (where it won 99 seats while 101 seats are required for a simple majority in 200-member assembly; elections were held for 199 seats) and in Madhya Pradesh (it won 114 against 116 required for a majority in the 230 member House.)
It obtained the support of Bahujan Samaj Party whose chief Mayawati, followed by SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, for government formation in Madhya Pradesh.
Mayawati said her party would support the Congress in Rajasthan also, if need be, to achieve the goal of keeping the BJP away from power.
“We had contested the MP and Rajasthan elections for keeping the BJP away from power. We have now decided to support the Congress in government formation in MP and also in Rajasthan, if the need arises, just to keep the BJP out of power even though we don’t agree with the Congress policies and thoughts.”
Mayawati’s party has won two seats in MP and six in Rajasthan. The SP has won one seat in MP.
Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav had not attended the opposition party meet in the capital the day before and have remained upset with the Congress for failed seat-sharing talks in MP and Chhattisgarh earlier. The two parties have thawed since Tuesday’s results which have given the Congress successes in the Hindi heartland.
In Chhattisgarh, the Congress had a landslide victory and now the question facing it is whom to hand over the chief minister’s post.
There are three prominent leaders jockeying for the top post. The first among these is TS Singhdeo, Congress Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, who won his seat from Ambikapur. Many in the party believe that Singhdeo, from the royal family of Surguja, is a frontrunner for his contribution to the party manifesto.
Singhdeo anchored the “Janghoshna Patra” campaign, putting together a manifesto after meeting people across the state. Many within the party believe that it is the promises made to farmers in the manifesto that helped the landslide win, with reports also abounding of Singhdeo helping several MLAs financially.
The Congress also strengthened its hold on the reserved Scheduled Tribe seats, increasing its tally in Bastar from eight to 11 seats.
From North Chhattisgarh, his supporters argue that it was only Singhdeo who criss-crossed the state to campaign, as other leaders stayed within their constituencies. In North Chhattisgarh, the Congress won at least 13 of the 14 seats at last count, with one seat in the balance according to ECI data.
His primary opposition within the party comes from PCC chief Bhupesh Baghel, an OBC leader who took over the reins of the party after its entire leadership was wiped out in a Maoist attack in Darbha in 2013. Baghel’s supporters argue that he has kept up the pressure against Chief Minister Raman Singh, attacking him on issues of corruption and misgovernance.
However, there is the sense within the Congress that Baghel is prone to controversy, and it is in this context that AICC OBC cell chief Tamradhwaj Sahu is being seen as a dark horse in the running. It was Sahu who won the party’s only Lok Sabha seat in 2014. He was given a ticket this time, replacing a candidate who had earlier been announced.
While Sahu may not have led the party during this campaign, many believe that he can emerge as the consensus OBC Chief Minister, given the predominance of OBCs in the state, and a Lok Sabha election next year.
Meanwhile, CM Raman Singh said he took moral responsibility for the BJP’s loss and sent his resignation to the Governor’s office. “When we won three times, the credit went to me, and therefore, I must take responsibility for this loss. This election was fought under my leadership,” he said.