Bhopal/ Jaipur/ Raipur, Dec 12: With Congress all set to form governments in 3 Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, the race for the CM post is getting hot. Sources told News24 that in all the three states, the state Congress presidents are leading the race. This means that Sachin Pilot may pip Ashok Gehlot to the post, while Jyotidiraditya Scindia may be asked to cool his heels with Kamal Nath getting the post. State party chief Bhupesh Baghel is the front-runner in Chhattisgarh.
Madhya Pradesh Congress chief Kamal Nath met Governor Anandiben Patel on Wednesday and staked his party's claim to form the next government in the state."We have staked claim," he told reporters after the meeting at Raj Bhavan. Asked who would be the Chief Minister, Kamal Nath shot back: "I don't know."Late on Tuesday, Kamal Nath wrote to the Governor urging her to give him an appointment so that he could stake claim as the Congress had emerged as the single largest party in the Assembly with "majority support".The Congress won 114 seats, two short of a majority in the 230-member house.After the meeting with the Governor, Lok Sabha member and Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia said "of course it would be a privilege" when he was asked whether he would like to be the Chief Minister.He said the Congress, which has won 114 seats, has the legislative majority with the backing of all four Independents and three MLAs of BSP and SP.Scindia, one of the contenders for chief ministership, also attacked outgoing Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan."You were claiming that BJP is going to win 200 seats this time. Even if we count all the BJP seats in all five states, the party has not crossed the 200 mark," he said.Earlier on Wednesday, Kamal Nath said the top priority of new Congress government will be to work for "farmers and unemployed youth". He said this after meeting the outgoing Chief Minister. He added: "We have to create a new environment of trust in Madhya Pradesh." Asked about the farm loan waiver promised by the party within 10 days of taking power, he said: "Let the government be formed first."Before meeting the Governor, Kamal Nath described Chouhan as "my friend" and said "he fought a good election".Who will be Rajasthan's new Congress Chief Minister? The question remained unanswered on Wednesday as the first round of meeting of newly elected MLAs failed to decide on a leader. Both former Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and state Congress President Sachin Pilot reached the Congress office to attend the meeting of MLAs which was to choose the leader of the Congress Legislature Party.Both Pilot and Gehlot are leading contenders for the top post amid slogan shouting by supporters.Congress sources said both Gehlot and Pilot supporters were in equal numbers and hence a consensus had been built so that the Congress High Command -- an euphemism for party President Rahul Gandhi -- can take a call on the CM's post.Meanwhile, Congress observer K.C. Venugopal was taking feedback from each MLA and his report shall soon be sent to Rahul Gandhi.Once Gandhi decides on a name, the next meeting will be called to announce the name of the Rajasthan Chief Minister, said a Congress source.Both Gehlot and Pilot have said the Congress leadership should take the final decision.The newly elected Congress MLAs in Chhattisgarh will meet here on Wednesday to decide on a the new Chief Minister, with informed sources indicating that state party chief Bhupesh Baghel was the front runner.All India Congress Committee observer Mallikarjun Kharge will preside over the meeting with all newly elected MLAs, set for the evening, Baghel told IANS. "A decision regarding the Chief Minister will be taken there."Among others to attend the meeting will be Congress in-charge for the state, P.L. Punia.The race for the Chief Minister's post is primarily between Patan MLA Baghel, party veteran T.S. Singh Deo, who was the Leader of Opposition in the former Assembly, and the party's lone Lok Sabha MP from the state, Tamradhwaj Sahu.Besides the three, former Union Minister Charan Das Mahant is also said to be in the reckoning.A former state Minister, Baghel is widely seen as the frontrunner for the top post."Baghel led from the front working at the grassroots as well as coordinating with the central and state leaders. As state party president, he has worked very hard and is most likely to be chosen as the Chief Minister," said a party source.Decimating the Raman Singh-led BJP, the Congress returned to power in the state after 15 years bagging 68 seats in the 90-member Assembly. News24 Bureau/ IANSPhoto: Google