Pilot added that he was fighting the elections after Congress President Rahul Gandhi asked him to.
New Delhi: In direct contrast to its strategy in Madhya Pradesh, the Congress on Wednesday announced that both of its stalwarts in Rajasthan — Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot — would contest the upcoming Assembly elections, thus keeping the race open for the chief minister’s post between the two leaders. Though officially the seats were not announced, sources indicated that Mr Gehlot might contest from Sardarpura and Mr Pilot from Bharatpur or Nasirabad. The decision comes after hectic negotiations over ticket distribution between the factions led by the two leaders. Top sources told this newspaper that efforts were made by the party high-command to first convince both Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot not to contest the Assembly polls in lieu with the formula worked out in MP where all the three possible CM faces — Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Digvijay Singh — have been asked to opt out. However, after discussions within the senior leadership, it was decided that both leaders should contest to put at rest speculation of differences between them.
Out of the five states going to polls, the Congress considers Rajasthan as a sure-shot win and the decision shows that it wants to tread carefully on factionalism.
While Mr Gehlot is a former chief minister and is considered a veteran in state politics, his appointment as the General Secretary Organisation shows that the Congress President wants a larger role for him at the Centre. Mr Pilot on the other hand has stayed put in Rajasthan since the fall of the Congress government five years back and is said to have done a lot of spade work to get the party back on its feet in the state.
The state goes to polls on December 7.
“All senior Congress leaders will contest the elections. I will contest, and Sachin Pilot will also contest. The reports of infighting in the Rajasthan Congress are baseless and spread by the BJP. We are unitedly fighting the Assembly elections,” Mr Gehlot said at a joint press conference with Mr Pilot and Rajasthan in-charge Avinash Pandey.
Mr Pilot added that he was fighting the elections after Congress President Rahul Gandhi asked him to. However, both leaders refused to be drawn into the debate over chief ministership saying it has been the practice not to declare a CM face in Rajasthan.
When quizzed as to why can’t a CM face be declared like Amarinder Singh had been for Punjab, Mr Gehlot said: “There can be exceptions”.