After day long meetings and consultations, the Congress on Thursday night picked Kamal Nath over Jyotiraditya Scindia for the chief minister’s post in Madhya Pradesh. However, in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – the two other heartland states the Congress managed to win from the BJP – the race for the top job is still on.
Sources say the party leadership prefers Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan, but state Congress chief Sachin Pilot is not giving up. The two leaders had one-on-one meetings with Congress president Rahul Gandhi late Thursday night, and a decision on who will be chief minister was deferred till today.
Party observer for Rajasthan KC Venugopal, who was also at the meetings, said 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 (today, Friday) in a meeting to be held around 10 am,” he said.
As the experience versus youth battle for the top post in three states seemed to head nowhere all day Thursday, the Congress president even consulted his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
After a break late in the evening, Mr Gandhi met Rajasthan Congress in-charge Sachin Pilot again. Ashok Gehlot, who was called back from the Delhi airport thrice on Thursday as he attempted to fly back to Jaipur, had a short meeting with Mr Gandhi around midnight, right after Mr Pilot.
For Rajasthan, Mr Gehlot, a seasoned political manager, holds an edge, but Sachin Pilot is believed to be fighting hard for the post that he believes he has earned after leading the party for the past four years in the state and rebuilding it after its 2013 rout.
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”.
For Chhattisgarh, frontrunners TS Singh Deo and Bhupesh Baghel have been called to Delhi from Raipur for discussions with top party leaders. Sources say Chhattisgarh Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel will probably get the job, although insiders say there is also considerable support for Mr Singh Deo.
Earlier on Thursday, a scuffle took place outside the house of Mr Baghel, where the party supporters had gathered, waiting to hear Delhi’s pick for the Chief Minister’s post. It is not known who were involved.
Mr Baghel, 57, has signaled that he is ready for any responsibility the party gives him.