Rajasthan's former chief minister Ashok Gehlot and state Congress president Sachin Pilot on Wednesday declared that they both will contest the December 7 assembly election, firing up the race for the chief minister's post in the state where the party is seeking to wrest power from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Sources said the leadership contest in Rajasthan Congress will now intensify with both main contenders throwing their hat in the ring.
Gehlot and Pilot, however, dismissed suggestions that there was any infighting among the state leaders and asserted that they will unitedly take on the BJP.
The two leaders ended the speculation over whether they will contest the polls at a joint press conference here at the Congress headquarters, where the party announced the joining of BJP MP Harish Chandra Meena from Dausa in Rajasthan.
While Gehlot is a sitting MLA from Sardarpura in Jodhpur district, Pilot has never contested the state assembly polls.
"The talk about division within the Congress is a conspiracy by the BJP which has also been exposed in last two months. There is no division in the party and all leaders will unitedly contest the upcoming election.
"Sachin Pilot ji and I will contest the assembly election, as well as all other senior leaders in the state who wish to contest," Gehlot told reporters.
He was asked about the delay by the Congress in announcing candidates and reports that claimed that infighting among the top state leaders over distribution of tickets was responsible for it.
Filing of nomination papers in Rajasthan started on Monday and will continue till November 19.
On the issue of chief ministerial candidate, Gehlot said since independence the Congress has never declared its chief ministerial face in Rajasthan and the party is happy to carry on this tradition. He also asserted there is discipline in the party and all Congressmen will abide by the party leadership's decision.
Speaking in the same vein, Pilot told reporters, "There is no division in the party in the state and all the leaders are united in the bid to defeat the BJP with a thumping majority."
"I want to make it clear that after Rahul Gandhi's direction and Ashok Gehlot's request, I will also contest the assembly election.
"Gehlot sahib will also contest and all of us will together help the Congress emerge victorious with a thumping majority and defeat the BJP in Rajasthan," he said.
Pilot had earlier been an MP from Dausa in 2004. He won from Ajmer in 2009 Lok Sabha election. He unsuccessfully contested the Lok Sabha election from Ajmer in 2014.
He, however, did not contest the bye-election to the seat earlier this year.