AHMEDABAD: Senior Congress MLAs Kunvarji Bavaliya and Vikram Madam today joined the race for the Leader of Opposition citing seniority and "support" from MLAs on the first day of the two-day meet being held here to elect the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) leader.
The meeting began today in presence of Central observers Ashok Gehlot and Jitendra Singh.
Gehlot and Singh are personally meeting each legislator of the Congress to know their preference for the new CLP leader who would become LoP by default as the Congress is the largest opposition party in Gujarat.
Meanwhile, Patidar MLA Paresh Dhanani, who is considered as the front-runner in the race to be the next CLP leader, said he would accept the decision of the party high command.
Ahead of the meeting, held at the party headquarter here, Bavaliya, a prominent Koli leader from Jasdan constituency, indicated that he was the most eligible among all.
"This is my fifth term as an MLA. I had also served as a Lok Sabha MP. Kolis constitute 27 per cent of population in Gujarat. I have been in public life as the representative of Kolis since long. I will put forward my seniority and experience when I will express my views at the CLP meet," Bavaliya told reporters.
Madam, a senior leader and a former Lok Sabha MP, too threw his hat in the ring claiming support of 27 to 28 MLAs out of total 77.
"There is nothing wrong in demanding something from our own party. Being a senior Congress leader, I will stake my claim during the meet. As many as 27 to 28 Congress MLAs are supporting me," the Khambhalia MLA told reporters.
After the meeting ended for the day, state Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki said all MLAs have unanimously passed a resolution giving full authority to party president Rahul Gandhi to decide the next CLP leader.
"Both the Observers met some of the MLAs today to understand their feelings. The process will continue tomorrow.
All MLAs gave their consent to a resolution authorising Gandhi to take a final call about the CLP leader," he said.
State Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said the name of the CLP leader might be announced tomorrow.
"After holding one-to-one meeting with each MLA, our observers will apprise the party high command. It is likely that the name of the CLP leader will be announced tomorrow itself after getting the approval of the Central leadership," he said.
Gehlot said views of the MLAs will be taken into consideration.
"The party will take the decision about the CLP leader only after taking into consideration the feelings of each and every legislator," Gehlot told reporters.
The Congress won 77 seats, 22 less than the BJP in the keenly-contested polls.
However, the Congress' tally in the 182-member House rose to 78 after Bhupendra Khant, the Independent MLA from Morva Hadaf constituency, joined the party recently.
Though names of several MLAs such as Mohansinh Rathva, Ashwin Kotwal and Virji Thummar are doing rounds, Dhanani is viewed as the frontrunner to be elected as the CLP leader.