Rajasthan still hunting for CM
Jat organisation, traditionally opposed to Ashok Gehlot, throws weight behind him, making him a clear favourite for the post. The Congress MLAs will be meeting on Thursday to elect their leader, report Nagendar Sharma and K S Tomar.jaipur Updated: Dec 11, 2008 00:17 IST
The struggle for the chief minister’s chair in Rajasthan between the supporters and opponents of senior Congress leader and front runner for the post, Ashok Gehlot, reached its peak on Wednesday.
The hectic activity ahead of the crucial meeting of the newly elected Congress MLAs to choose their leader in Jaipur on Thursday exposed the divisions within the party barely two days after the surprise victory.
Party general secretary Digvijay Singh along with two other central observers — Madhusudan Mistry, Lok Sabha MP from Gujarat and Haryana minister Birender Singh — would be at the meeting.
“It would be difficult to ignore the claim of Gehlot for chief ministership. We may have a deputy chief minister from the Jat community,” a senior party leader said.
Gehlot, widely perceived to have led the Congress to victory, should have been a clear choice, but complex caste equations and vocal opposition from Jat leaders has made the work of the leadership difficult.
Congress leaders opposed to Gehlot and projecting themselves as chief ministerial candidates include state party chief C.P. Joshi, Jat leader Hema Ram Chaudhary and National Commission for Women chairperson Girija Vyas.
Clean image and having been the chief minister earlier between 1998 and 2003, work to the advantage of Gehlot, who denied reports of division within the party.
“In a democracy, every elected MLA has a right to air his opinion about the chief ministership. In the Congress, caste is no consideration and the decision would be taken by the high command based on the views of the MLAs,” he said.
In a surprise development, a Jat organisation, traditionally opposed to Gehlot, for the first time came out in his support.
“If any Jat is not being made the CM, then the mahasabha supports the most popular Congress leader Ashok Gehlot for the post. He is also related to the farmer community,” a resolution adopted at the Jat Mahasabha meeting said.
This move could dampen the spirits of Gehlot’s detractors. Of the 16 Jat candidates who have won on the Congress ticket, majority are not said to be averse to Gehlot. Party sources say the Jats would have to be content with the post of a deputy chief minister only.
With majority of senior Jat leaders losing, Colonel Sona Ram, currently a Lok Sabha MP from Barmer, could be a choice for deputy chief ministership.
Names of the sons of union minister Sis Ram Ola and veteran Jat leader Paras Ram Maderna — Brijender Ola and Mahipal Maderna — are also in circulation for the post.
The MLAs are likely to authorize party president Sonia Gandhi to decide the name of the new chief minister, party sources said.