New Delhi: Political jockeying for leadership in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, which the Congress won in the latest round of assembly elections, gained momentum on Wednesday even as the party readied to form the government in those three states.

With regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), as well as independents, offering support, top state leaders of the Congress in both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh met the governors of their states and staked claim to form the government.

The Congress had in the run-up to the polls decided that its legislative parties will chose their next chief ministers. However, newly elected members of legislative assembly (MLAs) in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh passed a resolution on Wednesday saying that party president Rahul Gandhi will take a final call on it.

The bigger problem for Congress is going to be Rajasthan. The action has now shifted from Jaipur to the national capital with both former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and state unit chief Sachin Pilot being summoned by the top leadership of the party. With the party split over the two factions of Gehlot and Pilot, the choice of the next chief minister is going to be Gandhi’s toughest task after the elections.

To add to the party’s worries, the Congress has to rely upon the support of smaller parties and independents to bolster its tally in the state. As such, the scale is tilted heavily in favour of a chief ministerial candidate who can consolidate the gains in the party’s favour from support even outside the party.

“Gehlot is a former chief minister and also seems to have drawn support from independents, many of whom are Congress rebels. Pilot has worked in the state for the past four years and naturally he has his own following. The choice is tough unlike any other state but it seems that eventually Gehlot will be a front-runner," a senior party leader from the state said requesting anonymity.

The day saw a series of meetings in Jaipur. The party’s central election observers held hour-long meetings, following which the MLAs of the state held a meeting that remained inconclusive. The meeting with central leaders ran late into the evening, after which it was decided that a representation will be made to the governor. All the top leaders of the state unit and the national leaders who have ties with Rajasthan are likely to meet Gandhi on Thursday morning.

“One of the key factors in selecting chief ministerial candidates in all the three state will be deciding who can deliver 2019 elections for the party. Politically, that is the party’s priority right now and it wants to ensure that a right decision is made in this respect," a senior party leader aware of developments said requesting anonymity.

In Madhya Pradesh, a meeting of the legislative party took place in Bhopal on Wednesday on the choice of the chief ministerial candidate. According to senior party leaders from the state, the choice is boiling down to either state unit chief Kamal Nath or campaign committee chief Jyotiraditya Scindia. However, Nath is likely to have an edge.

“After a meeting with newly elected party MLAs, it was unanimously decided that the state’s leadership will be decided by the top leadership. We will abide by whatever decision they take," Scindia said in a post on Twitter.

In Chhattisgarh, where the Congress has swept to power with three-fourth of the seats, a late-evening meeting of the newly elected MLAs took place with central observers. A decision on the chief ministerial candidate is likely to be announced by Thursday morning. Front runners to the top post in the state include state unit chief Bhupesh Baghel and the chairman of the party’s national Other Backward Class (OBC) department, Tamradhwaj Sahu.

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