- Over 2.4 lakh party workers have been asked to name their pick
- Sources say very clear preferences are emerging from each state
- Congress won elections in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh
Congress chief Rahul Gandhi has gone to the grassroots to select Chief Ministers for Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh. The process is democratic, and works like a secret ballot.Over the last 24 hours, an audio message from Mr Gandhi has gone to 2.4 lakh party workers across the three states, in which they have been asked to respond, indicating their choice, and promised complete confidentiality.
In the audio message, Mr Gandhi is heard congratulating the leaders for the party's victory in the assembly elections in the three heartland states. "Now I want to ask you a vital question: Who should be the chief minister? Please mention just one name. I'm the only person who would know whom you are naming. No one in the party will know. Please speak after the beep".
Sources in Congress said the data will help decide whom the respondents from each state want and already, very clear preferences are emerging from each state.
"This is what we were waiting for. It is the new Congress -- Listen to your workers first," said a source, echoing what the Congress chief said on Wednesday about the importance of listening to the "heartbeat of the country".
The Congress had not named any candidate for the Chief Minister's post in any state in the run-up to the elections. It had allowed leaders at odds with each other to focus on the strategy and the campaigning. For the party, the challenge now is to ensure there are no more divisions, which are already threatening to emerge.
In Rajasthan, two-thirds of the newly-elected Congress lawmakers want Sachin Pilot to be the Chief Minister. Others are batting for two-time Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
The leaders in Madhya Pradesh are divided between party veteran Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Mr Gandhi's close aide.
In Chhattisgarh, too, several names are doing he rounds, including Bhupesh Baghel and TS Singh Deo, leader of the opposition in the previous assembly and Tamradhwaj Sahu, the state's only Congress parliamentarian.
Normally, party legislators give feedback about the contenders and the Congress president takes a call. But lawmakers from both Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh sidestepped the process on Wednesday, authorising Mr Gandhi to select the Chief Ministerial candidate.
The Congress chief had earlier assured that the process of selecting the candidate will "go smoothly".