NEW DELHI: The Congress won Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections, now discussions are underway over who will be the next Chief Minister in the three states. Congress sources say the top contenders for the post are Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh, Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh and Ashok Gehlot in Rajasthan.
Congress chief in Madhya Pradesh, Kamal Nath spearheaded the party's campaign in the state along with party's campaign committee head Jyotiraditya Scindia. When Kamal Nath was named the Congress chief in Madhya Pradesh in April 2018 ahead of the Assembly polls, many in the party recalled that former prime minister Indira Gandhi described him as her "third son" who helped her take on the Morarji Desai-led regime in 1979.
The senior-most member in the 16th Lok Sabha, Nath was given the task in April to revive the fortunes of the opposition Congress in Madhya Pradesh, where the party had been out of power since 2003. When Nath was chosen by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as the state chief, the MP Congress unit was riddled with factionalism. Nath made efforts to bring together senior party leaders - former MP chief minister Digvijaya Singh, Scindia and Suresh Pachouri - well aware that groupism may have had a role in keeping the party out of power for the last 15 years. He ensured that regional satraps got representation in the allotment of tickets.
In Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot may return to power as the Chief Minister after a gap of five years. Though the battle for the top post is between him and young Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee president Sachin Pilot, Gehlot is most likely to get the post owing to the experience that he brings on the table.
His first stint as CM was in 1998-2003 and the second from 2008-2013. He was unseated both the times by BJP's Vasundhara Raje. Gehlot has been at the helm of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee four times. He is currently general secretary of the All India Congress Committee and has been deployed by the party in crucial roles at the national level.
In Chhattisgarh, the race for the top seat is between state party chief Bhupesh Baghel, Leader of Opposition in the Assembly TS Singh Deo and party's lone Lok Sabha MP from the state, Tamradhwaj Sahu. However, it is likely that Baghel will supersede the others to assume the office of the Chief Minister.
A top runner for the post, Baghel is a former state minister and a former deputy leader of the Congress Legislature Party during the first tenure of BJP from 2003-2008. He has been indicted and was recently arrested by the CBI for allegedly distributing a "fake sleaze video" featuring a BJP state minister.
Baghel is currently out on bail. However, Baghel claimed that criminal cases filed against him were politically motivated. He took over as the PCC chief after the Congress lost to BJP in 2013 assembly elections.
Considering the loss that Congress had suffered in three consecutive elections, Baghel had a huge task to revive the party in the state. Throughout the poll campaign, Baghel launched frontal attacks on the BJP regime and raised allegations of corruption.