'Such a leader...': Pilot supporters' demand as Cong prez picks are revealed
Congress president election: Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor confirmed his candidature, as did Rajya Sabha LoP Mallikarjun Kharge, with Jharkhand leader KN Tripathi joining the list
A day after Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot withdrew from the Congress presidential race - claiming 'moral responsibility' for the revolt by his lawmakers over the possibility of Sachin Pilot as their new leader - people who claimed to be supporters of the ex deputy CM massed outside the party's HQ in Delhi to demand he be made party boss. One person told news agency ANI 'Pilot knows about problems at ground-level and what workers go through... such a leader should be president...', adding a potential last-minute twist to the Congress' efforts to elect a 'full-time' leader in place of 'interim' head Sonia Gandhi.
However, some of Pilot's supporters distanced themselves from those protests and said the people involved didn't appear to be from Rajasthan.
The Gehlot v Pilot feud has been simmering since before 2020, when the latter's attempt at a coup was put down firmly by the chief minister with support from the Gandhis. Pilot was sacked as deputy CM and removed as state unit chief.
On Thursday lawmakers claiming loyalty to each camp sparred.
Gehlot loyalist and minister Dharmendra Rathore called MLA and Pilot supporter Ved Solanki a 'traitor' after being called a 'middleman'.
Pilot was seen as the party's choice to replace Gehlot in Rajasthan after the chief minister (as was widely expected) was elected party president.
That smooth transition of power failed to happen after Gehlot loyalists rebelled; some had chief ministerial aspirations of their own.
Pilot met Sonia Gandhi in Delhi Thursday - after Gehlot withdrew from the race and apologised for failing to control his lawmakers.
After the hour-long meeting Pilot told reporters the Congress will take a 'positive decision' about its government in Rajasthan.
Gehlot had earlier also said he would leave the decision on his political future - on whether or not he remains Rajasthan chief minister - to Sonia Gandhi.
Rajasthan is one of two states where the Congress is in power on its own and vote for a new government in 14 months.
Meanwhile, turmoil over the Congress' presidential election seemed to settle Friday - the last day for filing nominations ahead.
Lok Sabha MP and ex union minister Shashi Tharoor confirmed his candidature, as did Mallikarjun Kharge, the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.
KN Tripathi, a party leader from Jharkhand, also filed papers.
Confirmation of Kharge's candidature came after Digvijaya Singh said he would drop out and support the Rajya Sabha LoP, whose position as the Congress' unofficial candidate was underlined by Gehlot saying he too would back him.
With input from ANI