Gehlot’s supporters want announcement of his successor postponed till Oct 19

Published on Sep 26, 2022 10:05 AM IST

Congress’s central observers Ajay Maken said there seems to be a conflict of interest as a resolution authorises the party chief to take the final decision and that Gehlot could be the Congress president by then

Congress lawmakers outside Rajasthan assembly speaker CP Joshi’s residence. (PTI)
Congress lawmakers outside Rajasthan assembly speaker CP Joshi’s residence. (PTI)
BySunetra Choudhury & Sachin Saini

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s supporters have sought postponement of the announcement of his successor until October 19, Congress’s central observers Ajay Maken said on Monday and added there seems to be a conflict of interest as a resolution authorises the party president to take the final decision on the matter. Maken pointed out that by October 19, Gehlot, who is due to contest the party’s presidential poll, could be the Congress chief.

“We wanted to follow the procedure of speaking to individual MLAs [members of legislative assembly] about what they want so that they can speak freely.” Maken said they came for the Congress Legislative Party (CLP) meeting Gehlot fixed at a time and date of his choice and added it was very strange that the lawmakers did not come for that.

The Gehlot camp legislators on Sunday indicated that the candidature of former deputy chief minister Sachin Pilot, who revolved against Gehlot in 2020, would be unacceptable, plunging the Congress into disarray in Rajasthan, one of the only two states the party is in power on its own.

People aware of the matter said a delegation of Congress lawmakers loyal to Gehlot on Monday asked the central observers Mallikarjuna Kharge and Maken to postpone the CLP meeting to pick the new chief minister as they were busy in with the 10-day long Navratri festival. This came a day after they threatened to bring the government down unless they get to pick Gehlot’s successor.

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Kharge and Maken may return to Delhi later in the day after speaking to state party leaders. Gehlot loyalists were again expected to meet the observers before that. “The observers are insisting on meeting all the MLAs [members of legislative assembly] before they return,” a Congress lawmaker said.

Congress leaders in Jaipur said the situation was fluid as the MLAs supporting Gehlot are not willing to relent knowing they have the numbers to choose the legislative party chief and the new chief minister. They have made it clear to the observers that Pilot or anyone from his camp will not be acceptable to them.

HT on Monday reported Congress president Sonia Gandhi would meet Gehlot, Pilot, Kharge, and Maken in Delhi on Monday to resolve the issue.

Maken and Kharge met ministers Shanti Dhariwal and Pratap Singh Kacharariyawas at the residence of Gehlot, who is contesting for the post of Congress president.

Also Read | Refrain from commenting on presidential candidates: Congress to office-bearers

Gehlot initially was keen to keep both jobs should he win the poll to be the Congress president. He seemed to have reconciled to stepping down as chief minister after former president Rahul Gandhi reiterated the Congress would stick to the one person, one post rule.

On Sunday morning, he even appeared reconciled to seeing Pilot take over as his successor. The transfer of power was to be effected in principle at a meeting of the CLP at Gehlot’s residence at 7pm on Sunday in the presence of Kharge and Maken, who is the party’s in-charge for Rajasthan.

But between 83 and 97 lawmakers loyal to Gehlot gathered instead at the residence of minister Dhariwal, a Gehlot loyalist who also has chief ministerial ambitions. Some wanted the party to make an exception and allow Gehlot to continue as the chief minister even if he were to be elected party president. Others wanted someone from Gehlot’s camp as his successor.

Minister and Rashtriya Lok Dal lawmaker Subhash Garg on Sunday said that whatever decision was taken would be acceptable to all but they must remember that two years back a conspiracy to topple the government was hatched in connivance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). It was seen as a dig at Pilot’s camp.

Garg said 102 lawmakers including independents and those from smaller parties stood behind the Congress in 2020 and asked the Congress leadership to also consider their views.

The CLP meeting was pushed to 8.30pm. But by then, the Gehlot camp lawmakers left Dhariwal’s house in a bus for the residence of speaker CP Joshi, who is also believed to be Gehlot’s choice as his replacement.

Independent lawmaker Sanyam Lodha said if the decision is not taken keeping the lawmakers’ sentiments in mind, the government will be in danger.

Another lawmaker Govind Ram Meghwal said Gehlot could be the chief minister as well as the party’s national president.

Gehlot camp lawmakers said their resignation letters were ready with minister Pratap Singh Kacharariyawas claiming 97 of them would resign.

Congress has 108 lawmakers in the 200-member assembly. Gehlot also enjoys the support of 13 independents. Around 18 lawmakers are believed to be supporters of Pilot.

Most of the lawmakers were outside the speaker’s residence till late on Sunday and it was not immediately clear if they resigned. The lawmakers said they discussed at Dhariwal’s house the purported attempt to name Pilot as the chief minister, which would not be acceptable.

Gehlot, who was in Jaisalmer, is expected to file his nomination for the Congress president’s election on Monday. He reiterated no post was important for him and that the new generation should be given a chance to lead the party and the government in Rajasthan.

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