Sixty-Seven years old Ashok Gehlot, was called back from the Delhi airport on Thursday night when he was about to fly back to Jaipur, apparently after being told he would be named Rajasthan Chief Minister.
Ashok Gehlot is the new Chief Minister of Rajasthan and Sachin Pilot has agreed to be his deputy, the Congress today announced. Sachin Pilot will also get to keep the post of state Congress chief. The announcement came shortly after Rahul Gandhi tweeted a photo with Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot, all three grinning, with the caption: “The United Colours of Rajasthan”. It was a replica of his photo to signal the Madhya Pradesh detente last evening. The Congress has been in firefighting mode since it scooped big BJP states Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh in state election results on Tuesday.
Following are the top 10 developments in this big story:
- Sources say the power share between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot will be “50-50” since Sachin Pilot acceded to Ashok Gehlot becoming chief minister despite his strong claim. The swearing-in ceremony will take place in Jaipur on Monday and will be attended by Rahul Gandhi.
- It took several rounds of meetings over the past 36 hours to bring Sachin Pilot, the Rajasthan Congress president since 2013, on board. Rahul Gandhi’s sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra joined one of the meetings.
- Ashok Gehlot kept a low profile throughout the negotiations that went past midnight; he had his party’s assurance that he was the top choice. He was called back from the airport twice as he attempted to take a flight back to Jaipur – he was told he could go only when he got Sachin Pilot to go with him, for the sake of unity.
- Two-time chief minister Ashok Gehlot, say sources, was a clear choice for the Congress ahead of the 2019 national elections. Upsetting someone like the 67-year-old master strategist by naming someone else for the top job was too big a risk for the party.
- Sachin Pilot argued to his leaders that he moved to Rajasthan and took charge when there was “not even a shade of Congress grass in the desert state” in 2013, after the party was decimated to just 20 lawmakers in the 200-member assembly. His other argument was that another Congress state chief, Kamal Nath, had been made chief minister.
- Yesterday, in a similar teaser tweeted by Rahul Gandhi, Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia flanked the Congress president, the caption quoting Leo Tolstoy: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” Hours later, Kamal Nath was named Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister.
- This morning, a group of protesters from the Gujjar community, which supports Sachin Pilot, blocked the highway at Alwar. There have been sporadic protests since Tuesday, after the Congress won Rajasthan.
- Sachin Pilot appealed for “calm and decorum” last evening when a highway protest took place in Karauli. “I have full faith in the leadership, we will welcome whatever Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi decide,” he had tweeted.
- Mr Gehlot was called back from the Delhi airport last night when he was about to fly back to Rajasthan capital Jaipur, apparently after being told he would be named chief minister.
- As the experience versus youth battle for the top post in three states seemed to head nowhere all-day Thursday, the Congress president even consulted his mother Sonia Gandhi and sister Priyanka.