Sep 27, 2022, 01:00 pm
Amid a revolt by over 90 Rajasthan MLAs Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, has been ruled out as Congress president. Leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge and Digvijaya Singh are now in the race.
Sources said the Congress leadership is furious with Ashok Gehlot for plotting a rebellion that has embarrassed the party in the middle of Rahul Gandhi's "Bharat Jodo Yatra". The 71-year-old Gandhi favourite's refusal to give up the post of Rajasthan Chief Minister has annoyed the leadership, the sources say.
A meeting was organised at Mr Gehlot's home on Sunday where a political transition was to be formally announced that would have elevated Mr Gehlot as Congress president. Mr. Gehlot was to tender his resignation before the appointment as Rahul Gandhi made it clear that he would not be allowed a double role, given the Congress's "one person, one post" policy.
However, only about 20 to 25 MLAs showed up at Mr Gehlot's home. Most Congress MLAs attended a different meeting at the home of Shanti Dhariwal, a minister close to Mr Gehlot.
After that meeting, they took a special bus to the Speaker's house and threatened to resign if Mr Gehlot was replaced as Chief Minister by his rival Sachin Pilot, who rebelled in 2020 against him.
The MLAs refused to meet with the two central leaders individually, openly defying party president Sonia Gandhi, and laid out conditions that included choosing a new Chief Minister only after the Congress president election. If Mr Gehlot became Congress chief, that would constitute conflict of interest as he would be empowered to pick his own successor in Rajasthan.
Although three ministers close to him coordinated the rebellion, Mr Gehlot denied any part in it, citing his visit to a shrine near the India-Pakistan border that morning where there was no phone reception. "Nothing is in my hands. The MLAs are angry," he told the central leadership.
No one in Delhi believed that 92 MLAs could threaten mass resignation without Mr Gehlot's active support and encouragement. Though Mr Gehlot has apologised, the Congress leadership has taken a "serious view" of indiscipline by one of its senior most leaders.
The Rajasthan crisis added to the turbulent build-up to the October 17 Congress president polls. For the first time in more than two decades, a Gandhi is not in the contest.
With Mr Gehlot, the odds-on favourite, ruled out, the Congress is considering candidates like Mallikarjun Kharge and Digvijaya Singh. Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath's name has also come up but he met with Sonia Gandhi last evening and reportedly said he would prefer to focus on his state.