With Madhya Pradesh chief minister decided, Rahul Gandhi to take call on Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh CMs today

Kamal Nath was picked as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh on Thursday after day-long meetings and deliberations. However, in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the race for the top job is still on. The Congress leadership is grappling with tussle between the young and the old guards of the party.

Party president Rahul Gandhi has deferred the decisions on chief ministers of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh as he wanted to hold further discussions with party leaders, Congress sources told PTI, even as one of the top contenders for the desert state, Sachin Pilot, met the party chief for a second time late Thursday night.

Rahul held discussions with party leaders in Chhattisgarh on Thursday to decide on the new chief minister for the state, the party sources said, but postponed the decision to Friday for holding wider discussions with the contenders. The Congress chief had earlier held a series of meetings with chief minister aspirants in Rajasthan — Ashok Gehlot and Pilot — but no consensus emerged between the two and Pilot asserted his right for the top post. Even though the suspense over Rajasthan chief minister continued, a few reports also said that Gehlot was Rahul's choice.

Party observer for Rajasthan KC 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 the new chief minister is not an easy job. The final decision will be taken tomorrow in a meeting to be held here around 10 am," he said.

Pilot reached Rahul's residence at 10.30 pm 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."

Pilot's supporters also shouted slogans in his favour outside Rahul's residence. While Gehlot is learnt to be leading the race for chief minister's post, Pilot is also putting up stiff resistance and is staking his claim.

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 Rahul 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. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is understood to have counselled Rahul 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."

Pilot visited Rahul's residence again late in night amid speculation on whether the race was still open and could go down to the wire. The party president also met Venugopal and the AICC state in-charge Avinash Pande for the second time. Rahul held a late meeting on Thursday with party's central observer Mallikarjun Kharge, who said that further deliberations will take place on Friday with state leaders before arriving at a final decision on chief minister.

AICC in-charge of party affairs in Chhattisgarh PL Punia was also present during the meeting with Rahul. "The meeting has been postponed for tomorrow (Friday). There will be a meeting again tomorrow," Kharge told reporters after meeting Rahul. The sources said TS Singh Deo and Bhupesh Baghel have also been called to the national capital from Raipur for discussions with top party leaders.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Dec 14, 2018 09:47:01 IST