JAIPUR: With the election for the next Congress party president fast approaching, everyone is now keen on knowing who will be the new Rajasthan Chief Minister.
Current CM Ashok Gehlot had met Rahul Gandhi in Kerala on Thursday and announced his decision to file a nomination for the post of AICC president. Gehlot had also confirmed that he will resign as CM if he becomes the new party president.
Against this backdrop, one of the main contenders Sachin Pilot reached Jaipur on Friday and started lobbying with MLAs.
He also met the Speaker of the Assembly and senior Congress leader CP Joshi.
Joshi, a former Union Minister, is seen as one of the major contenders should Gehlot win and move to Delhi. It is being said that Gehlot has recommended that Joshi be crowned his successor.
Meanwhile, Gehlot himself returned to Jaipur from Kerala via Shirdi late Friday evening.
In the morning, Pilot reached the assembly and met the MLAs supporting him, including Ved Prakash Solanki, Indraj Gurjar and Rajesh Pareek. He also met Gehlot supporters Girraj Malinga and independent MLA Khushveer Jojawar. After these meetings, Pilot smiled and left with folded hands.
He then reached Speaker Joshi's chamber after meeting a dozen MLAs in the assembly lobby. At this meeting, Gehlot's close aide Dharmendra Rathod, cabinet minister Pratap Singh Khachariawas and Gujarat Congress in-charge Raghu Sharma were also present.
Sources said that Pilot has started talking to Congress MLAs of all factions. These include those MLAs who were once considered his staunch opponents.
The meeting between Joshi and Pilot is especially being considered very important. Right now both these leaders are seen as frontrunners to replace Gehlot. Although the conversation between the two leaders has not been disclosed, it is believed that there has been a round of consultation between them regarding the future CM of Rajasthan.
Gehlot's statement, in which he had spoken of the need to consider the sentiments of MLAs in the choice of a new CM, is believed to be behind Pilot's aggressive lobbying.
At the moment, 80 percent of the MLAs are with Gehlot and about 20 percent are in favor of Pilot. Pilot is trying to woo the MLAs in the Gehlot camp away in his favor.
The Pilot camp also wants Gehlot to leave the CM chair before he is crowned as the President of AICC because they fear that he may create difficulties otherwise.
When asked in Kerala about who will succeed him if the CM's post falls vacant in Rajasthan, Gehlot had said the "decision about the next CM will be taken through a proper process. Sonia Gandhi and general secretary in-charge Ajay Maken will decide together".