JAIPUR/BHOPAL/RAIPUR Three Congress chief ministers on Monday took oath of office in three previously BJP-ruled Hindi heartland states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhatisgarh with most of the opposition leaders present in the swearing-in ceremonies that also turned into a show of unity against the saffron party.
Ashok Gehlot was the first one to the administered oath as Rajasthan Chief Minister by Governor Kalyan Singh at the historic Albert Hall in Jaipur while state party chief Sachin Pilot was appointed as his deputy.
However, the swearing-in of 72-year old Kamal Nath as chief minister of Madhya Pradesh was held in the shadow of protests over his alleged role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in which his party colleague Sajjan Kumar was convicted and given a lifer.
Nath has denied any role in the violence and the Nanavati Commission, which probed the 1984 riots, also gave him the benefit of doubt.
Before the ceremony, an all-religion prayer meet was also organised.
Immediately after taking over, Nath signed an order waiving loans of up to Rs two lakh of farmers in Madhya Pradesh, a poll promise by Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, who had assured implementation of loan waiver within 10 days of coming to power.
In Chhatisgarh, Congress leader Bhupesh Baghel was sworn in as the chief minister by Governor Anandiben Patel while MLAs T S Singh Deo and Tamradhwaj Sahu, who were among front-runners for the CM’s post, were sworn in as ministers.
Gandhi along with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and several senior Congress leaders attended all the three ceremonies.
Leaders of most of the opposition parties, including Nantionalist Congress Party (NCP), Telugu Desam Party (TDP), National Conference (NC), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Janata Dal (Secular) (JDS), Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD) were present at these ceremonies, but heads of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Trinamool Congress were not there.
Gehlot’s oath taking was attended by outgoing chief minister Vasundhara Raje and NCP’s chief Sharad Pawar, TDP’s supremo and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu, NC president Farooq Abdullah and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, JDS president and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha’s (JMM’s) Hemant Soren, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) leader Babulal Marandi among others.
DMK president M K Stalin, who had on Sunday proposed the name of Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate of the proposed anti-BJP front, was also there at the ceremony.
Gehlot, 67, has become the fourth leader to hold the chief minister’s post for a third time in Rajasthan. The Congress leader became the chief minister for the first time in 1998 and held the post again in 2008.
Pilot was wearing a ‘safa’ or a traditional turban as a mark of the Congress victory in the state. The state Congress president had pledged in 2014 to not wear the traditional headgear till his party returns to power.
Prior to the oath ceremony, Gehlot and Pilot along with other leaders welcomed Gandhi, Manmohan Singh and others at the Jaipur airport, from where they left to the Albert hall, an iconic structure located in the heart of the city.
The oath-taking ceremony of Baghel was attended by AICC general secretary Mallikarjun Kharge, Rajasthan CM Gehlot, Pilot, Puducherry CM V Narayansamy, MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, Punjab minister Navjot Singh Sidhu, Abdullah and Loktantrik Janata Dal leader Sharad Yadav, among others.
Baghel’s predecessor Raman Singh was also present.
While in the 230-member MP assembly, the Congress got 114 seats and received support of SP (1) and BSP (2) as also of four Independents, it managed 99 seats with its ally RLD got one during the polls held for 199 seats in Rajasthan.
In 90-member strong Chhatisgarh assembly, Congress won 68 seats.
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