Will Ashok Gehlot run for Congress’ highest post? Rajasthan chief gives clear signal during nightly meeting

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Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, 71, has emerged as one of the contenders for the Congress President position. PTIA

Will he or not? That seems to be the question on everyone’s mind about Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot contesting the polls for the position of President of Congress.

However, a meeting held at his residence Tuesday night has given signals as to what his next move will be and whether he will actually run for the position of president of Congress.

Here’s an overview of exactly what happened at the 10 p.m. meeting and what it means for the party.

The meeting of 10 p.m.

On Tuesday, after hosting MLAs for a dinner to congratulate Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar, Ashok Gehlot convened an informal meeting of the Congress Legislature Party.

It is reported that Gehlot told the MLAs that he was a loyal party man and would abide by any decision the leadership makes. He told them he would meet Sonia in Delhi today and then fly to Kerala to meet Rahul Gandhi to convince him “one last time” to fight and return as president of Congress.

He added that if Rahul changed his mind, he would do what the party asks him to do.

Speaking at the meeting, Gehlot told Congress MLAs that they would be asked to come to New Delhi if he decided to submit his nominations for the party presidential election, the state minister of Food and Civil Supply Pratap Singh Khachariyawas said.

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Food and Civil Supply Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas further told reporters: “The prime minister said that if he submits nomination for the party’s national presidential post, lawmakers will be notified to reach New Delhi.”

He said there is no anti-establishment position in the state and the prime minister was not fond of people.

The process of submitting nominations for the organizational elections in Congress begins on September 24 and ends on September 30, and Gehlot is increasingly seen as a top candidate for the position of the party’s national president.

The TBEN for withdrawing nominations is October 8, and the election will take place on October 17, if necessary. The results will be released on October 19.

Congress chief or prime minister?

Gehlot, the 71-year-old leader, has recently emerged as one of the contenders to take the position of head of Congress – the first non-Gandhi to take the position in more than 20 years.

It has been reported that the Rajasthan Prime Minister will contest the polls for the party top post against Shashi Tharoor of Thiruvananthapuram, who met Sonia Gandhi on Monday and expressed his wish to run for the post.

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However, Gehlot seems reluctant to give up his position in Rajasthan.

It has been said that Gehlot is averse to handing over the ministerial position to his former deputy and rival, Sachin Pilot.

Interestingly, the Tuesday meeting took place in the absence of Pilot, who left for Kerala on Tuesday afternoon to join the Bharat Jodo Yatra.

The Bharat Express News citing sources have reported that if Gehlot moves to the national scene, he wants a loyalist to rule as his plenipotentiary in Rajasthan. If not, he wants to keep both roles by taking over as president of the congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time chief.

Will Ashok Gehlot run for top post of head of Congress Rajasthan sends clear signal at belated meeting

Ashok Gehlot is averse to handing over the ministerial position to his former deputy and rival, Sachin Pilot. PTIA

Gehlot vs Pilot

That the two Rajasthan leaders disagree is not a new fact. The rivalry dates back to 2018 when both – Gehlot and Pilot – were in an intense race to become prime ministers after Congress won the Rajasthan assembly elections.

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Congress elected Gehlot as prime minister for the third time, while Pilot became his deputy, a post he lost after his rebellion.

Since then, the two influential leaders have hunted each other and exchanged barbs. After the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the prime minister said Pilot should take responsibility for the defeat – the party lost all 25 seats – and more for the loss of his son, Vaibhav Gehlot, in Jodhpur.

Pilot did not let this pass. He said that if Gehlot had campaigned across the state rather than spending too much time alone in Jodhpur, the results could have been different.

The case came to a head in 2020. Pilot rebelled against Gehlot and moved to Delhi with 18 MLAs. The standoff ended just a month later after the Gandhis intervened.

The infighting does not bode well for Congress in the state, which goes to the polls next year. The party only has governments in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, but the party has seen leadership struggles in both states.

With input from agencies

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