Senior Congress leader Kamal Nath will be the next chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, the party announced late on Thursday. The announcement came after a day of meetings between Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and the two contenders for the post in New Delhi. Jyotiraditya Scindia was the other front-runner.
Nath is a nine-time Lok Sabha MP from Chhindwara constituency in Madhya Pradesh and is the state president of the Congress. He succeeds Shivraj Singh Chouhan of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had been in power for 15 years.
Nath and Scindia had arrived in Delhi on Thursday to meet Rahul Gandhi at his residence, where they remained till late evening. They left for Bhopal around 8 pm and said a decision would be announced by night.
As the suspense continued till late Thursday, Gandhi posted a tweet with a picture of himself flanked by Scindia and Nath, with a quote attributed to Leo Tolstoy: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.”
In an interview with The Indian Express published on Thursday, Nath had said the Congress will focus on improving the state’s fiscal health and exposing the prime minister for his policies such as the Goods and Services Tax regime and demonetisation.
Final results of the recently-held Assembly elections in the state were declared on Wednesday morning. The Congress emerged the single-largest party with 114 seats, while the BJP got 109 – both parties were short of the majority mark of 116. Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party have offered support to the Congress, which will help them cross the majority.
Besides Madhya Pradesh, the Congress won a clear majority in Chhattisgarh and was the single largest party in Rajasthan. The party finished just two short of the majority mark, at 99, in Rajasthan, with the BJP winning 73 seats. In Chhattisgarh, the Congress won 68 seats and the saffron party 15.
On Wednesday, a single-line proposal had been passed at the Madhya Pradesh Congress Legislature Party meeting in Bhopal. The Congress high command was expected to decide the chief minister.
Outgoing Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan did not stake claim to form the government, saying the BJP did not get a majority. After submitting his resignation, he said he took full responsibility for his party’s loss. “I worked tirelessly for the poor and farmers,” Chouhan said at a press conference on Wednesday. “I apologise if I upset the people of Madhya Pradesh.”
Chouhan said the BJP will be a strong Opposition. “My job is to provide constructive support, we now have the responsibility to be the watchdog,” he said.