The party said that it has emerged as the single largest party and enjoys support of all Independents.
New Delhi: A nail-biting contest during counting of votes in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday culminated in a dramatic twist late in the night with the Congress, which was running short of the magic figure of 116 by a whisker, seeking an appointment with governor Anandiben Patel to stake claim to form government.
In the 230-member Assembly, the EC had declared results of only 138 Assembly constituencies when the Congress hand delivered a letter to the Raj Bhavan late in the evening to seek an appointment on Tuesday night. The party said that it has emerged as the single largest party and enjoys support of all Independents.
Raj Bhavan sources, however, indicated that no appointment could be granted till results for all seats are officially announced.
When state Congress president Kamal Nath’s letter was delivered at Raj Bhavan, the Congress was leading in 113 seats while BJP was ahead in 109 seats as per the state election office.
The state Congress chief wrote the letter in the backdrop of reports that the BJP had begun efforts to rope in Independent candidates to reach the halfway mark.
The urgency shown by the Congress in Madhya Pradesh to stake claim appeared to be borne out of its earlier mistake in Goa where a delay in staking claim, despite being the largest party with 17 MLAs in a 40-member House, had deprived it of the opportunity to form a government in 2017. The BJP had formed the government in Goa despite having just 13 legislators.
In his letter to the governor, Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath said, “The Congress has emerged the single largest party with majority support. All the Independents have in addition assured support to the Congress. As president of Pradesh Congress Committee I seek an appointment with your excellency late tonight as soon as the results are officially declared along with my senior leaders to apprise you and seek your permission to form government.”
The Congress’ victories in the three states in the Hindi heartland have thrown up several chief minister probables. However, talking to reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday, Mr Gandhi ruled out any problems in picking chief ministers in the three states.
“There will be no issue over (selection of) chief minister. It will be done smoothly,” he said.
In Madhya Pradesh, it was still not clear whether state unit chief Mr Nath will be picked to be the chief minister. Names of Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh were also doing the rounds.
Sources said Mr Nath was specifically sent by Congress president Rahul Gandhi to Madhya Pradesh in June last year to end the BJP’s 15-year rule.
In Rajasthan, the contest for the chief minister’s seat is between 41-year-old state unit chief Sachin Pilot and 67-year-old, two-time chief minister Ashok Gehlot. Mr Pilot has been at the helm of Rajasthan Congress since 2014 and has put in tremendous amounts of time and effort to highlighting the ills of the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government.
An urbane politician, equally at home in a village as in the debating room of an English news channel, Mr Pilot has more than earned his electoral stripes. He travelled more than five lakh km through the length and breadth of Rajasthan to strengthen the party at the grassroots level and ensure its comeback.
On the other hand, Mr Gehlot is an old warhorse of the Congress who until recently was looking after affairs of Gujarat. Lok Sabha MP K.C. Venugopal and Congress general secretary, incharge of Rajasthan, Avinash Pandey, are already in Jaipur to meet the newly elected MLAs on Wednesday before taking a final call.
In Chhattisgarh, state unit chief Bhupesh Baghel, leader of the Congress in the Assembly T.S. Singh Deo and Lok Sabha MP from Durg Tamardhwaj Sahu are the likely contenders to take the top post.
Insiders say that Mr Sahu is the frontrunner as he was asked to contest the Assembly elections despite being a Lok Sabha MP. Leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge has been assigned to go to Raipur and meet the newly-elected MLAs.