Ashok Gehlot bows out of the Congress president race

The likely probables for the contest now are Shashi Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh.

Published : Sep 29, 2022 20:43 IST

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, in New Delhi on September 29.

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, in New Delhi on September 29. | Photo Credit: ATUL YADAV/PTI

After the Rajasthan Congress legislators sounded the bugle call of revolt, three-time Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot declared that he was out of the race for the post of president in the party’s organisational elections scheduled for October. He told reporters that he was not filing his nomination and that he had apologised to party president Sonia Gandhi for the developments in the Rajasthan Congress. The Congress president had a one-and-a-half-hour-long meeting with him. It was learnt that the central leadership was livid with the turn of developments and the ensuing embarrassment. A visibly contrite Gehlot told reporters today that he was taking responsibility for all that had transpired over the weekend, acts that were described as indiscipline by central observers of the Congress.

The likely probables for the contest for the post of Congress president now are Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh. Nominations for the organisational elections close on September 30. A photograph of the two contestants hugging each other was doing the rounds on social media. Tharoor tweeted a welcome when Digvijaya Singh entered the fray. He said it was not a battle between rivals but a friendly contest among colleagues.

It may be recalled that more than 90 MLAs loyal to Gehlot staged a virtual revolt by staying away from a Congress Legislature Party meeting on September 25. The meeting was supposed to pass a one-line resolution empowering Sonia Gandhi to anoint a successor to Gehlot should he become Congress president. Anticipating that the post of Chief Minister would be lost to Gehlot forever and that Sachin Pilot would fill the vacuum, loyalists close to Gehlot declared that it could be anyone but Pilot. Central observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge had to return empty-handed as the MLAs objected to the entire process and wanted three conditions to be met observers. Maken expressed his disappointment publicly with the developments and even suggested that it was an act of party indiscipline. Three of Gehlot’s loyalists have been told to give Sonia Gandhi an explanation for their actions within 10 days.

Pilot, who was in the eye of the storm in 2020 for his role in a rebellion, has maintained a stoic silence throughout as he is aware that he does not enjoy the full support of the MLAs. He does enjoy the confidence of Rahul Gandhi though, who is busy with the Bharat Jodo Yatra. The present developments may have skewed things in Pilot’s favor vis-a-vis the central leadership, but it will be a while before he get the support of his party legislators. On the other hand, Gehlot is now firmly back in the saddle as Chief Minister, making it quite apparent that he might not have been inclined to come to the centre in the first place. It has been an uneasy comeback for Gehlot, but the central leadership also knows that replacing the 71-year-old Gehlot would have been fraught with consequences.

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