Will Gehlot pull out of Congress presidential race? Sources close to him say ‘fluid...'
The Congress Working Committee members have asked party interim president Sonia Gandhi to make another person a candidate who is both a veteran and loyal to the Gandhi family.
Calling the crisis in Rajasthan a “totally fluid situation”, sources close to Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot told HT on Monday that he may not yet file nomination for the forthcoming Congress presidential elections. The response comes after members of the Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party's highest decision-making body, reportedly told interim boss Sonia Gandhi to pull Gehlot out of the race to become her successor.
News agency ANI reported that some members were annoyed with Gehlot over the drama playing out in his state, where MLAs loyal to the (presumed) outgoing chief minister have halted what the Congress hoped would be smooth transition of power - ex-deputy CM Sachin Pilot taking over from Gehlot.
The miffed CWC members have lodged a complaint against Gehlot, ANI reported. They are believed to have told Sonia Gandhi “It would not be good to lay faith in him and give him responsibility of the party... top leadership should reconsider his candidature”.
Those loyal to the Rajasthan CM, however, have called the CWC move “pressure tactics” and said they are “spreading this so that 10 or more MLAs join” Sachin Pilot's side.
Drama in Rajasthan erupted late Sunday night after more than 90 MLAs who profess loyalty to Gehlot snubbed an outreach by party observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge and said they would resign - potentially bringing down their party's government - if they were not allowed to pick a chief minister of their choice; neither Pilot, who led an unsuccessful revolt against Gehlot two years ago, nor his supporters were acceptable choices, the MLAs declared.
The MLAs gathered at the home of state minister Shanti Dhariwal - who is believed to have chief ministerial ambitions himself - and met Speaker CP Joshi late last night.
Pilot and MLAs loyal to him attended Saturday's legislature party meeting - scheduled by Gehlot - but lawmakers in the chief minister's camp stayed away, raising questions over his ability to control them. Gehlot had previously expressed reluctance in surrendering his position as chief minister even if he (as is expected) wins the presidential race.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi - whose resignation from the post in 2019 - has left a festering leadership void - indicated last week that he expected the party to honour the “one person, one post” rule adopted during the Udaipur conclave. That comment was seen as a rebuke to Gehlot, who subsequently indicated his willingness to abide by the party's rules.
As the crisis played out Monday, Gehlot met Kharge at a Jaipur hotel. Both Maken and Kharge are to return to Delhi to brief Sonia Gandhi. Gehlot and Pilot are expected in Delhi as well.
Meanwhile, Shashi Tharoor - the party's Lok Sabha MP from Kerala and a member of the G-23 group of internal critics of the Gandhis - said he will file his nomination on September 30.
(With inputs from HT bureau)