New Delhi (IANS) Ending the intense jockeying for power in Rajasthan, Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Friday picked party veteran Ashok Gehlot as the new Chief Minister of the state and Sachin Pilot, who had put up a strong claim, as his deputy.
The formal announcement of Gandhi's decision was made at a press conference at the party headquarters by K.C. Venugopal, observer for the legislature party leader's election, after an over hour-long meeting between Gandhi and the two contenders, Gehlot and Pilot, at his residence.
Informed sources said Gandhi is said to have convinced Pilot to become Gehlot's deputy as the party is keen to keep the Gujjar community, to which he belongs, on its side ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. The Gujjars are a dominant community in Rajasthan.
This was the third meeting of Gehlot and Pilot in two days with Gandhi as their respective camps strongly staked their claim for the Chief Ministerial post.
"Gandhi has chosen Ashok Gehlot as the Chief Minister and Sachin Pilot will be the Deputy Chief Minister," Venugopal announced here adding it will be a mix of experience and dynamism.
This is the third time the 72-year-old Gehlot will assume the reins of Rajasthan as Chief Minister while the 41-year-old Pilot, who won his maiden Assembly election, will be making a debut in the state.
Expressing his gratitude over being chosen as Chief Minister, Gehlot assured the people of Rajasthan that the party would fulfill all its commitments including waiver of farmers' loans, generating employment for the youth and providing good governance.
"My colleague Sachin Pilot and others will get together to fulfill the vision and promises of Rahul Gandhi," he said.
Congratulating Gehlot, Pilot said the elections to the three Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh were a game changer in national politics and said the results had given hope to the people as regards economic development and harmony. He exuded confidence the party would win the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Venugopal said a delegation of leaders including Gehlot and Pilot would be meeting Governor Kalyan Singh to convey the decision of the party.
Thursday was marked by dramatic developments when Gehlot was chosen to lead the Congress Legislature Party and was headed for Jaipur when he was called back from the airport as Pilot supporters launched street protests, embarrassing the party after a tough election win.
Gandhi wanted that, like in Madhya Pradesh, the power struggle should be halted and a picture of consensus should go to the people. He called for fresh consultations late on Thursday night and on Friday morning when the two leaders met and the issue was sorted out.
In a sign of the tussle being resolved, Gandhi on Friday tweeted his photograph with a smiling Gehlot and Pilot with a caption "United Colours of Rajasthan!".
Ahead of the meeting, Gehlot took a veiled dig at Pilot saying that the party unit had already left the decision on Gandhi and it was not the time to express individual choices.
"We have given the duty to the High Command. Let it decide who is to be given what responsibility. If I say my choice is this, it is not the time for that. The time is to strengthen the Congress, see how its graph goes up.
"If Congress is strong, everyone will be empowered and we prove to be useful in meeting the objectives of the 2019 elections. This alone should be our thinking," Gehlot said.
In Madhya Pradesh too, the party went for the old guard, preferring veteran and state party chief Kamal Nath as the Chief Minister over the youthful parliamentarian Jyotiraditya Scindia. But as of now, there is no sign that Scindia will be a Deputy Chief Minister.
Jyotiraditya Scindia is the son the late Congress veteran Madhavrao Scindia while Sachin Pilot is the son of the late Union Minister Rajesh Pilot.