Gehlot puts his hat in CM race

Gehlot puts his hat in CM race

Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday virtually put his hat in the chief ministerial sweepstakes in Rajasthan by declaring that both he and party's state unit chief Sachin Pilot will contest the December 7 Assembly elections.

Gehlot, a two-term chief minister, made the announcement at a press conference here at a time when party leaders are struggling to finalise the list of candidates for the Assembly elections, trying to strike a balance between the camps of Gehlot and Pilot, the party's younger face in the poll bound state.

A debate on whether senior leaders such Gehlot, Pilot and C P Joshi should contest the elections was apparently another reason why the first list has been delayed.

"All Congress leaders will contest the elections. I and Sachin Pilot will also contest," Gehlot said rubbishing reports of a tense stand-off with Pilot, who was seated at the same dias.

"After directions from Rahul Gandhi and at the insistance of Gehlotji, I will also contest the elections. Gehlot sahab will also contest. We will all contest and together will ensure a massive victory of the Congress," Pilot said.

Neither Gehlot nor Pilot indicated which seat they would contest from. Gehlot has been contesting from Sardarpura assembly seat in Jodhpur district, while it will be the first assembly election for Pilot, a two-term Lok Sabha member.

Pilot is expected to contest from a suitable constituency in Ajmer or Dausa, which is considered his backyard.

The 67-year-old Gehlot remains a popular face in Rajasthan, particularly in the rural areas, while Pilot has been slogging it out in the state since 2014 and enjoys the backing of Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

It was expected that the Congress would follow the Madhya Pradesh formula where chief ministerial aspirants Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kamal Nath have been asked not to contest the assembly elections.

"We have said many times that whatever Rahul Gandhi decides on who should be chief minister, we will abide by that. It is a tradition for Congress in Rajasthan to not declare CM before elections," Gehlot said.

The Congress is yet to declare its first list in the state, even though the BJP came out with its list three days ago, on Sunday night.