'Kamal' to Kamal in MP, Rajasthan still awaits Raja

Congress picks Kamal Nath as MP CM, decision on Rajsthan, C'garh not yet
Congress said an era of change is upon MP with Kamal Nath at the helm.

Bhopal/New Delhi: Congress on Thursday night named veteran leader Kamal Nath as Madhya Pradesh's next chief minister after marathon consultations by the party chief Rahul Gandhi with senior leaders including Sonia Gandhi, even as hectic parleys continued for the other two newly-won states -- Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

While 72-year-old Nath reached Bhopal to get formally elected as leader of the Congress Legislative Party by the newly-elected MLAs in the night itself at a meeting also attended by another contender Jyotiraditya Scindia, the tussle between the old and the young guard continued to stymie the selection process for the chief ministerial face in Rajasthan.

Sachin Pilot, 41, reached Gandhi's official residence in Lutyens Delhi for a second time late in night. Soon after Pilot left, 67-year-old Ashok Gehlot also reached the Gandhi residence again, as the party leadership continued to discuss the claims by the two leaders for the top post in Rajasthan.

Gandhi also held discussions with party leaders in Chhattisgarh 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.

Gandhi will meet T S Singh Deo and Bhupesh Patel, who are among the top contenders for Chhattisgarh, on Friday, party leaders said.

Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath
Rahul tweeted a photo with Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath

Rahul's sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also visited his house while intense parleys were on earlier in the day, but there was no confirmation whether she was a participant.

As hours went by without an announcement, tension and sloganeering had risen among supporters of various contenders, spilling into violence in some areas of Rajasthan. However, it was replaced by slogans being chanted in support of Kamal Nath later in the night after he reached Bhopal.

After the meeting of the MLAs, Nath said he would meet the governor 10.30 am on Friday to take forward the government formation process.

"I assure people of Madhya Pradesh that we will fulfil our promises. A new beginning has been made," he told reporters.

Regarding Rajasthan, Pilot and Gehlot appealed to party workers to maintain peace and discipline, saying they have full faith in the party leadership and would abide by its final decision.

After briefing Gandhi, AICC in-charge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pande, told PTI: "We have given a detailed report on the views of party MLAs to the Congress president, who will take a final call on chief ministers. The decision will be announced at the legislature party meeting in Jaipur."

Elected Congress MLAs in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh have passed one-line resolutions authorising Rahul Gandhi to decide on the chief minister.

Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot
Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot with AICC observer K C Venugopal.

In Chhattisgarh, some scuffles took place outside the residence of state party chief Bhupesh Baghel (57), who is one of the contenders apart from leader of opposition in outgoing assembly T S Singh Deo (66), OBC leader Tamradhwaj Sahu (69) and party veteran Charan Das Mahant (64).

For Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, one view within the party was to go ahead with the veterans like Gehlot and Nath, who is 72, as safer options keeping the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in mind, while others were rooting for young turks like Scindia and Pilot to send across a message of change.

"We are checking, taking inputs from different people in the party. We are taking inputs from MLAs and workers. We are getting a comprehensive answer to what the Congress party and others feel," Gandhi had told reporters outside Parliament earlier in the day.

Gandhi had also sought views of party workers through an internal messaging system with a pre-recorded message asking them to send their views directly to him through the application.

Facing his first test within the Congress, Gandhi had started hectic deliberations with senior party leaders early Thursday morning and a final decision was expected by the evening to enable the oath-taking ceremonies at the earliest.

The party has already staked its claim for forming governments in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.

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