The Congress party is poised to topple three-term chief minister Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. As per the latest lead position, the Congress has gained a substantial lead over the Bharatiya Janata Party. The Congress is leading in 50 seats while the BJP is ahead in as many as 25 seats.
With the hard-fought election drawing to a close, the focus is now on who will be the chief minister in Chhattisgarh. The party, which has been out of power for the last 15 years, has no dearth of chief ministerial aspirants. However, the Congress hasn't projected any particular leader as its CM candidate.
The Chhattisgarh region of former Madhya Pradesh has produced some of the most powerful leaders of the party in central India, such as Motilal Vora, Vidyacharan Shukla and Shyamacharan Shukla. However, since former CM Ajit Jogi left the party two years ago, the Congress leadership hasn't been claimed by any particular leader.
Sooner rather than later the Congress will have to deal with the tough task of choosing its leader in the state. Here's a look at the probable candidates for the CM's post in Chhattisgarh.
Sahu is an MP from Durg and is contesting from the Durg rural Assembly constituency. The 69-year-old is a strong leader from the backward classes, and is heading the Congress party's OBC cell of the Congress.
The backward classes in the state account for more than 16 percent of the total population, and the choice of Sahu will keep this crucial vote bank in the Congress fold. Sahu is also seen as a close confidant of Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
It has been reported that Rahul had asked Sahu to contest in the Assembly election. However, Sahu had discounted speculation that he was the chief ministerial candidate from the Congress.
"I have never run after position in my entire career. I do what my party asks me to. Right now the priority is to win elections. Thereafter, it is upto the central leadership to choose a candidate," he told Scroll during the campaign phase.
T S Singhdeo
Singhdeo, who hails from the powerful upper caste Thakur community, is another strong contender for the chief minister's post if the Congress wins majority.
The scion of Sarguja royal family is also the current Leader of Opposition in Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly. Interestingly, he was the richest candidate in the 2013 Assembly Elections, and his style of functioning had raised eyebrows in sections within the party.
Singhdeo, who was elected from the Ambikapur constituency, had also brushed aside his chief ministerial ambitions.
"Our president Rahul Gandhi has already stated that we will be fighting under a joint leadership. We would like that the elected members are given their democratic right to choose a leader after the election as is the usual practice," he had told The Hindu.
Baghel, a four-term MLA from Patan, rose through the ranks in the Congress party as a youth lewader. Baghel also has significant administrative experience, having worked in the governments of Digvijay Singh (in the undivided Madhya Pradesh) and later that of Ajit Jogi.
Another factor that increases his chances is the fact that he is the current President of Chhattisgarh Pradesh Congress Committee.
Former Union minister Mahant also has serious chance of making it to the chief minister's chair. Mahant was a minister is the Digvijay Singh government before he was picked by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be a minister of state in his cabinet.
Mahant had also worked briefly as the president of Chhattisgarh PCC president.
Sharma, a former minister in the state, is the Brahmin face of the Congress in Chhattisgarh. However, this very consideration can go against him as the state has a dominant backward class population. He had served in the cabinets of both Digvijay Singh and Ajit Jogi.