Congress brass holds hectic parleys to mitigate Rajasthan crisis | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Congress brass holds hectic parleys to mitigate Rajasthan crisis

By, New Delhi
Sep 27, 2022 05:23 PM IST

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday expressed her disappointment at the events in Rajasthan and sought a written report on the turmoil after scores of lawmakers defied the central leadership in an unprecedented rebellion, people aware of the development said.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday expressed her disappointment at the events in Rajasthan and sought a written report on the turmoil after scores of lawmakers defied the central leadership in an unprecedented rebellion, people aware of the development said.

Congress observer for Rajasthan, Ajay Maken, with party secretary (organisation) Qazi Nizamuddin leave after meeting party chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI)
Congress observer for Rajasthan, Ajay Maken, with party secretary (organisation) Qazi Nizamuddin leave after meeting party chief Sonia Gandhi at her residence in New Delhi on Monday. (ANI)

Sonia Gandhi met party observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, who were unable to hold a legislature party meeting in Jaipur on Sunday evening due to the rebellion by 92 legislators ostensibly close to chief minister Ashok Gehlot.

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“It’s disappointing. I didn’t expect this to happen, ” Gandhi told the observers in her meeting, according to a key party functionary who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

The unprecedented rebellion – Gehlot loyalists don’t want former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot to become the next CM and even met speaker CP Joshi with a resignation letter -- threatens to jeopardise the party’s succession plan in Jaipur, and its upcoming presidential poll. Party leaders in Delhi spent Monday trying to talk to both camps and finding a solution to end the political crisis in one of the only two states that the Congress rules on its own.

Gehlot was expected to file his nomination for the October 17 poll but a section of the party believes that Gehlot should no longer be considered as the next party president and other candidates can be explored. Another section maintains that the internal election – considered the centrepiece of the party’s plan to rejuvenate its grassroots network before the next set of state polls and the 2024 general election – could be held after the Rajasthan crisis is resolved.

But with just four days left for submitting the nomination for the election, the party has its task cut out. Some leaders in the party indicated that a settlement of the Rajasthan leadership question may be directly linked to Gehlot’s prospects to be the next party president.

Late in the evening, Sonia Gandhi also met party veteran Kamal Nath amid speculation that he might also be involved in the negotiations.

A senior leader added that, as of now, there is no plan to defer the election process but if Rajasthan issue is not resolved in the next two days, the schedule might require a “relook”. “For the first time in the recent past, MLAs have challenged the authority of the Congress president. Now the key issue is whether the party high command accepts an alternative to Sachin Pilot as Gehlot’s replacement,” a senior leader said, requesting anonymity.

In Delhi, the Congress headquarters was the site of hectic parleys and several meetings as Maken and Kharge returned from Jaipur to brief Sonia Gandhi.

“Mallikarjun Kharge (the other observer) and I met Sonia Gandhi and briefed her in details about our trip to Rajasthan to hold the Congress legislative party (CLP) meeting. Congress president has asked for a written report on the entire incident,” Maken said.

“I want to reiterate that the CLP meeting was planned on the basis of chief minister’s (Gehlot) suggestions. Both the venue and the timing were decided as per his suggestions. And Congress president’s clear direction was to consult all MLAs individually and then return and submit a report. She had also said the decision was not be taken in Jaipur but in Delhi after due consultations,” added Maken.

Functionaries close to Gehlot insisted that there was no battle between him and the high command and that he is ready to step down as CM and fight for the Congress president’s election. His aides added that Gehlot was unlikely to file nomination for now as the situation remains fluid and alleged that Pilot’s presence in the Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kochi was intended to showcase his credentials as the next Rajasthan CM. The yatra, the party’s largest mass contact programme in years, is being led by senior leader Rahul Gandhi.

Congress functionaries suggest that the report of Kharge and Maken might suggest gross indiscipline on behalf of some MLAs, particularly state minister Shanti Dhariwal for holding a parallel meeting. “When an official meeting was scheduled, the decision to hold a parallel meeting amount to indiscipline. Also, such meetings can’t happen without Gehlot’s support,” said the first leader, requesting anonymity.

But Dhariwal hit back, saying the CLP was called by the party high command as part of a conspiracy to remove Gehlot as chief minister.

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