Congress leader Kamal Nath was named the new chief minister of Madhya Pradesh after a day of meetings in Delhi during which party boss Rahul Gandhi reportedly persuaded Jyotiraditya Scindia to fall in line. After a two-hour meeting, Rahul Gandhi said it with his cryptic tweet of a photo with the two leaders, all smiles.
Hours later, the Congress confirmed the news on Twitter. "Our best wishes to Shri @OfficeOfKNath for being elected CM of Madhya Pradesh. An era of change is upon MP with him at the helm. (sic)" the party tweeted.
Thanking Jyotiraditya Scindia for supporting him, 72-year-old Kamal Nath put out an emotional statement, with a reference to Jyotiraditya Scindia's father Madhavrao Scindia, a senior Congress leader who died in a plane crash in 2001. "The chief ministerial post is a milestone for me. On December 13, Indira Gandhi had visited Chhindwara and handed me over to the public. I would like to thank Jyotiraditya Scindia for supporting me. I have worked with his father. That is why I am happy that he supported my selection," said Kamal Nath.
Kamal Nath was a shoo-in for the post after he led the Congress to a narrow victory in the state election and ended the BJP's dream-run in the key heartland state. The Congress emerged as the largest party but touched majority only with support from Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia held separate meetings with Rahul Gandhi, where UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was also present.
Later, tweeting the same photo that his party president posted, Mr Scindia commented: "It is not a race, it is not about kursi (chair), we are here to serve the people of Madhya Pradesh. I am leaving for Bhopal and you will get to know the decision (on chief minister) today."
Kamal Nath enjoyed the backing of a large section of legislators, though Mr Scindia had argued that he had greater popular support. When NDTV asked him on Thursday whether he would like to be chief minister, the 47-year-old had replied: "Absolutely, I would be honoured to serve as chief minister."
But Kamal Nath had apparently already slipped into the role as he talked about the top priorities of the new Congress government on Tuesday evening. "We have to create a new environment of trust in Madhya Pradesh," he told reporters. Reminded about the farm loan waiver promised by the Congress within 10 days of taking power, he also said: "Let the government be formed first."
Rahul Gandhi's audio message to 2.4 lakh Congress workers on Wednesday, urging them to reveal to him their choice of chief minister in complete confidence, reflected the party's challenging task of choosing its lieutenants in the three states it won - Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan - especially in the run-up to next year's national election.