Gandhis meet CM hopefuls for Raj, MP as tussle intensifies between old and young guard
New Delhi: An apparent tussle between the old and the young guard in the Congress seems to have delayed the announcement of chief ministers for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, as the party leadership carried out hours-long hectic deliberations before deciding on names.
Parleys were also continuing on Thursday among top party leaders for deciding the chief minister for Chhattisgarh, where Congress has got a clearer mandate than the other two states but multiple contenders are in fray for the top post.
The chief minister aspirants in Rajasthan (Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot) and Madhya Pradesh (Kamal Nath and Jyotidaridya Scindia) met Rahul Gandhi and staked their claims even as senior leaders huddled at the residence of party chief Rahul Gandhi, where UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also participated in the deliberations.
While Rahul Gandhi met the party's central observers who gave him inputs on the views of newly-elected legislators in the three states, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi also came to her son's residence at Tughlaq Lane here to participate in the discussions.
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra was also at brother Rahul's residence and is said to have taken part in the discussions on who should be the chief minister in the three states, party sources said.
Rahul Gandhi also separately met Gehlot and Pilot at his residence earlier in the day. The two spent around 15 minutes each with the Congress president and left without talking to the waiting media outside. Later also, they did not take calls from the media.
The Gandhis are learnt to have later held discussions with Scindia at Rahul's residence, as he is said to be putting a stiff fight for his claim to the chief minister's post.
Sources said there was hectic lobbying for the top post in the three states, with a clear division between the old and young guard.
While senior Congress leader Kamal Nath is considered ahead in the race for chief minister in Madhya Pradesh, he is being is challenged by Scindia for the top slot. In Rajasthan, party veteran Gehlot was said to be leading the race, even as Pilot is staking his own claim strongly.
Amid hectic lobbying for the top post, Gandhi met the central observers K C Venugopal for Rajasthan and A K Antony for Madhya Pradesh early morning along with the state unit in-charges and later met the contenders.
"Yes, you will see a chief minister soon...," Gandhi said when asked about when the decision will be taken.
"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," he told reporters outside Parliament amid mounting suspense over the chief ministerial faces of the three states.
Gandhi also held deliberations with Antony and AICC general secretary in-charge Deepak Babariya and took inputs from them. Antony had held discussions with newly-elected party MLAs in Madhya Pradesh during his visit to Bhopal on Wednesday.
The Congress chief also met central observer for Rajasthan K C Venugopal and AICC in-charge of party affairs in the state Avinash Pande who briefed him about the developments. There were two meetings with Venugopal during the day, one with Rahul and again when all the three Gandhis were present.
"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," Pande told PTI.
Sources said the chief minister for Chhattisgarh would be decided after the central observer for the state, Mallikarjun Kharge, briefs Gandhi on the basis of the view of the state's party MLAs.
As deliberations continued inside, supporters of each contenders were heard raising slogans and flashing banners in support of their respective leaders -- out the party offices in the three states as also outside the house of top leaders.
Pilot's supporters raised slogans outside Gandhi's office also.
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.
The potential chief ministers in Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh were earlier called in from Jaipur and Bhopal for last minute discussions with the party president before a final call is taken on who will be the chief ministers.
The state legislature parties of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh had on Wednesday passed one-line resolutions authorising the party president to take the final decision on chief ministers.
With the young leaders in the party -- Scindia and Pilot staking their claim for the top post too, the sources added that the Congress was also toying with a formula to have deputy chief ministers in two states.
Gandhi was also likely to meet the top contenders in Chhattisgarh -- state Congress chief Bhupesh Baghel, CLP leader T S Singh Deo, OBC leader Tamradhwaj Sahu and party veteran Charan Das Mahant.
Facing his first test within the Congress, Gandhi 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.