NEW DELHI — The Congress on Friday named Ashok Gehlot as the next chief minister of Rajasthan and Sachin Pilot his deputy after party president Rahul Gandhi successfully brokered peace between the veteran leader and his younger colleague over several rounds of discussions lasting more than two days.
Congress observer to the state KC Venugopal made the announcement at a media briefing, ending the suspense over who would be appointed chief minister of the state — experienced hand Gehlot, who will be chief minister for a third stint, or the Pradesh Congress Committee chief who is credited for being instrumental in the party’s turnaround in the desert state.
Addressing the press conference, Gehlot (67) thanked Gandhi for giving him the opportunity to serve the people of the state for a third time and promised that he and Pilot will give “good governance”.
Pilot (41) exuded confidence that Congress’ good electoral performance will continue, saying the party will get a big mandate in 2019 polls and form government at the Centre also.
“Mera aur Ashok Gehlot ji ka jaadu puri tarah chal gaya hai (Gehlot and I worked our magic in the state),” Pilot said.
The Congress went from 21 seats against the BJP’s 163 in 2013 to getting 99 seats (plus one of the Rashtriya Lok Dal) in the assembly elections the votes for which were counted on Tuesday.
Pilot said the party’s manifesto will be implemented immediately.
He put up stiff resistance and had staked his own claim for the top post, it is learnt.
Referring to Gehlot’s ‘kaun banega crorepati’ quip to a question on who will be Chief Minister at a press conference last month, Pilot jokingly said, “Who would have known that instead of one there will be two ‘crorepatis’.”
Venugopal said details of the oath taking ceremony would be decided after meeting Governor Kalyan Singh in Jaipur on Friday evening. Both Gehlot and Pilot would be present at the meeting.
They will arrive in Jaipur from New Delhi and will go to the Raj Bhawan to hand over the list of MLAs, sources in Jaipur added.
Gandhi has met Gehlot and Pilot thrice since Thursday itself. Hectic discussions were held between top party leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, on the selection of chief ministers for Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh.
Senior party leaders Venugopal, Avinash Pande and Jitendra Singh were also present during the meeting Friday.
According to Congress leaders, leaders should not challenge the high command and accept the decision once MLAs in the state have authorised Gandhi to take a call.
Pilot was apparently not on board on Gehlot’s name, which delayed the announcement.
Eventually, Gandhi successfully brokered peace with the Chief Minister-deputy Chief Minister compromise formula.
“The united colours of Rajasthan,” Gandhi tweeted Friday afternoon along with a photograph in which the three leaders were seen in a jovial mood.