New Delhi: Rajasthan's wait to know who would be the next chief minister finally ended on Friday evening with Congress naming Ashok Gehlot for the top post. Sachin Pilot has been named the deputy CM.
Gehlot took the opportunity to thank party president Rahul Gandhi and the people of Rajasthan. "I am grateful to the party high command and Rahul Gandhi for giving me and my colleagues the opportunity to lead the government in Rajasthan," he said, while also taking potshots at the previous government. "A lot of work needs to be taken up. The previous government stopped a lot of work we had started and they will be renewed. There was a lot of anger with Vasundhara Raje in the state but we will ensure our government works for all the people."
Pilot too hailed the decision and assured of clean governance. "The three elections - in Rajasthan, MP and Chhattisgarh - were elections that has wide ramifications for the entire country. The outcomes are a relief for people who had lost hope. They are now hopeful that Congress and UPA would fare well in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019," he said.
The two leaders were instrumental in leading the party to a win against the BJP in the recently concluded state assembly elections. Winning 99 seats was a major achievement considering Congress had only managed 21 in 2013. Both Gehlot and Pilot were hailed but their set of supporters soon began chanting for their respective leader to take over the mantle.
Much like in adjoining Madhya Pradesh where there was a toss-up between Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia for CM's post, Gehlot and Pilot too were engaged in a power struggle behind the scenes even if they put up a united face on the outside. There were also reports on Thursday of Pilot's supporters blocking key roads in the state while demanding the CM's post for their leader.
The situation threatened to reach a boiling point.
The final decision was left to national party president Rahul Gandhi and he held several marathon meetings with both leaders, eventually choosing 67-year-old Gehlot's experience over 41-year-old Pilot's youthful exuberance - much like how he chose Kamal Nath over Scindia.
Gehlot is familiar with the CM's office and the significance and responsibilities that come with it. He was previously CM of Rajasthan twice - between 1998 and 2003, and then between 2008 and 2013.