A few months ago, when the Congress' central leadership convened a meeting to discuss the preparations for the upcoming Assembly elections in Rajasthan, it was announced that the party's candidates for the polls would be declared much in advance.
However, the Congress appears to be exercising extreme caution in declaring its candidates for the state election and it has proved to be a long wait for the Congress' nominees for the coming polls. The first list of 33 candidates was announced on October 21, and the second list of 43 candidates was released the following day, a third list comprising 19 names was made official on October 26. In all, 95 candidates have been announced so far by the Congress for the election slated to be held on November 25. At present, the Congress has 108 MLAs in the 200-member Vidhan Sabha.
In the lists announced so far, the majority of the party MLAs have been retained. A balancing act on part of the Congress leadership is also evident, which is significant in the backdrop of the bitter tussle for power between Gehlot and Pilot that has been witnessed. Both factions can claim to have got their people in when one looks at the lists of candidates announced so far.
The discussion within the party about replacing a substantial number of MLAs to deal with the feeling of anti-incumbency against the legislators has not translated into any action, as far as the first three lists are concerned. Most sitting MLAs and ministers have been retained in the seats for which names have been announced so far.
MLAs loyal to Pilot, who had taken his side during his rebellion against the Gehlot government in 2020 feature in the list, so do independent MLAs whose support had proved crucial to keep the government safe.
Suspense continues though about the fate of two cabinet ministers Shanti Dhariwal and Mahesh Joshi, and Dharmendra Rathore, Chairman of Rajasthan Tourism Development Corporation, with their names not figuring in the candidates' lists so far. The three leaders, known to be close to Gehlot, are accused of having had a role to play in the scuttling of the Congress Legislature Party in September 2022.
Congress appears to be exercising caution in the crucial election and erring on the side of safety in choosing candidates.