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Congress chief Sonia Gandhi may meet Ashok Gehlot amid ongoing crisis in party

BySaubhhadra Chatterji
Sep 28, 2022 05:01 AM IST

A highly anticipated meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot may be scheduled either on Wednesday or Thursday

A highly anticipated meeting between Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot may be scheduled either on Wednesday or Thursday, and could provide a solution to the ongoing political crisis that has cast a shadow on the upcoming election of the party president, people aware of developments said on Tuesday.

Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul. (File Photo)

A spokesperson from Gehlot’s office denied that there was any communication from Sonia Gandhi, and added that they were awaiting directions from the high command about what to do next. Party leaders also didn’t rule out the possibility of finding an alternative candidate for the presidential poll -- Gehlot was set to file his nomination before the unexpected rebellion of lawmakers close to him on Sunday evening -- in the next few days.

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Functionaries told HT that Sonia Gandhi has indicated that the crisis can be resolved. “She is of the view that this is not an issue where a solution can’t be found. The Gehlot camp, too, has conveyed through emissaries that the rebellion was not directed against the Congress president and Rahul Gandhi,” said a leader involved in the backchannel talk with the team of the chief minister, requesting anonymity.

The backchannel negotiations, involving a number of functionaries, are crucial as the party is racing against time to find a suitable candidate for the October 17 election. The party’s central election authority has not given any indication that the poll will be deferred. Rather, the Congress’s poll in-charge Madhusudan Mistry handed over the delegate card to Sonia Gandhi, in an indication that the exercise has not been derailed.

As the situation remains fluid, Congress leader Sachin Pilot -- widely considered as a top contender for the Rajasthan CM’s seat should Gehlot move to Delhi -- came to the Capital but did not meet Sonia Gandhi yet.

But party insiders maintain that with just three days left for filing nominations, the chance of calling another meeting of Rajasthan lawmakers is virtually non-existent. In that case, there is a possibility that Gehlot may be asked to declare that he will resign on October 20 if he gets elected on October 19, and that he will play no role in the election of his successor in Rajasthan.

Some sceptics in the party, however, maintain that Gehlot can not be trusted any longer after 92 MLAs, all ostensibly Gehlot loyalists, skipped the legislature party meeting on Sunday evening and said they will not accept Pilot as the next CM. “The report prepared by Ajay Maken had also indicated that all his loyalists skipped the meeting and that the meeting was scheduled after discussing with him. He has not been absolved in the report. Of course, no action has been suggested against him as action against a sitting CM can further deepen the crisis in Rajasthan,” said a senior leader.

A second senior leader claimed that the party is also preparing to find an alternative candidate should Gehlot eventually not file his nomination. Former minister Pawan Bansal picked up two nomination forms on Tuesday. Bansal, however said that he was not in the race and kept a form for Harmohinder Singh Lucky, the Congress unit chief of Chandigarh.

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