Congress names Ashok Gehlot Rajasthan chief minister, Sachin Pilot his deputy
Rahul Gandhi had met both Gehlot and Pilot separately over several rounds of talks on Thursday too
The suspense over the next Rajasthan chief minister ended on Friday after Congress president Rahul Gandhi picked party veteran Ashok Gehlot for the top post and named the party’s state unit chief Sachin Pilot as his deputy.
Gehlot, 67, secured his third term as the state’s chief minister after Gandhi brokered peace between him and Pilot, whose supporters took to the streets on Thursday to press his claim to the CM’s post, after two days of tortuous consultations during which he met them twice individually on Thursday and together on Friday.
The delay in designating the next chief minister, after it became clear on Tuesday that the Congress had wrested back the state from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), stemmed from the stiff resistance offered by supporters of Pilot, 41, to the candidacy of Gehlot. Pilot was seen to have steered the Rajasthan unit through difficult times and rebuilt it in the five years he spent as its chief.
Both Gehlot and Pilot will take their oaths of office and secrecy on December 17, the day Kamal Nath will be sworn in as the Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
The announcement came at a joint press conference at Congress headquarters in New Delhi. Congress general secretary in-charge of Rajasthan Avinash Pande, central observer KC Venugopal and former union minister Jitendra Singh were also present at the press conference. Referring to Gehlot’s ‘kaun banega crorepati’ reply to a question on who will be the chief minister at a press conference last month, Pilot, in a lighter vein, said, “Who would have known that instead of one there will be two crorepatis.”
Watch: Ashok Gehlot named new Rajasthan CM, Sachin Pilot state’s Deputy CM
Jaipur-based political expert Narayan Bareth said Gandhi had done a “balancing act by taking experienced Gehlot and young and dynamic Pilot together” before Lok Sabha elections next year.
Pilot took over as the Rajasthan Congress chief in January 2014, nearly a month after the party was decimated in the assembly elections in which it managed to win just 21 of the 200 seats in the assembly.
The poor show continued in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections as the Congress failed to open its account while the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won all 25 seats. The Congress dethroned the BJP in the just-concluded assembly elections, winning 99 seats. The BJP won 73 seats.
The Congress has the support of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with six legislators and also some independents.
“Mera aur Ashok Gehlot ji ka jaadu puri tarah chal gaya hai (our magic completely worked in the state),” Pilot told reporters.
Gehlot thanked Gandhi for giving him the opportunity to serve the people of the state for a third time as CM and promised that he and Pilot will provide good governance.
Gehlot was brought to the All India Congress Committee (AICC) in April 2017 as general secretary in-charge of Gujarat and took charge of organisation and training in March this year, replacing another veteran, Janardan Dwivedi. Apart from Gehlot, only three leaders have so far occupied the CM’s post three times. The others are Mohan Lal Sukhadia and Haridev Joshi of the Congress and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat of the BJP.
Gehlot has been a member of Parliament from Jodhpur five times and represented Sardarpura in the state assembly an equal number of times. Pilot represented Dausa and Ajmer in the Lok Sabha in 2004 and 2009 respectively.
While Gehlot is known for his political acumen and organisational skills, Pilot is credited with strengthening the party at the grassroots level.
Pilot expressed confidence that the Congress will sustain its electoral performance, saying the party will get a big mandate in the 2019 polls and form the government at the Centre, too.
With the Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan CM selections done, the Congress leadership is now grappling with the issue in Chhattisgarh, where the party won a two-thirds majority, ousting the BJP from power after 15 years. Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Tamradhwaj Sahu, state chief Bhupesh Baghel and former legislature party leader TS Singhdeo are the front-runners.
During the day, the leaders held extensive deliberations both with Gandhi and his mother and former party chief Sonia Gandhi. A section of the party had argued that since there had been a massive consolidation of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in favour of the Congress, the next chief minister should be from the community. Both Baghel and Sahu belong to the OBCs; TS Singhdeo is a Rajput.
First Published: Dec 14, 2018 16:22:22