Ashok Gehlot today apologized to Sonia Gandhi and said he would not run for Congress president, taking “moral responsibility” for the rebellion by MLAs loyal to him in Rajasthan. He also said that whether he will continue as the Chief Minister is up to Sonia Gandhi.
With his humiliating apology, Ashok Gehlot managed to remain the chief minister of Rajasthan despite a major, shameful revolt, which would not have been possible without his support. More than 90 MLAs threatened mass resignation over reports that if Mr Gehlot runs for Congress president, he will be replaced by his rival in Rajasthan, Sachin Pilot.
Ashok Gehlot’s exit means that a third candidate for Congress president, who has the blessings of the Gandhi family, may be nominated soon. Nominations for the first Congress election in two decades with non-Gandhi candidates close tomorrow.
So far, it looks like a Digvijay Singh vs Shashi Tharoor contest in the October 17 election. Both will file their nominations tomorrow.
Digvijay Singh met Shashi Tharoor after announcing his decision to contest the election. Sharing a picture of the two hugging, Mr Tharoor tweeted: “I welcome his candidature for the post of President of my party. We both agreed that our fight is not between rivals but a friendly one between allies. There is competition. We both want whoever wins, Congress will win!”
Ashok Gehlot was considered Gandhi’s first choice for Congress president until his chances were sabotaged by Rajasthan Congress legislators loyal to him. The legislators said they would not accept Sachin Pilot, who had rebelled against Mr Gehlot in 2020, as his replacement.
The legislators put the conditions before two central leaders, Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge, who in their report to Sonia Gandhi described the rebellion as “gross indiscipline”. Three ministers close to Mr Gehlot were asked to explain their role in engineering the rebellion within 10 days.
Mr Gehlot alleged a “motivated attempt to brand him a rebel” at the behest of the “BJP and some vested interests”.
Congress wanted Mr. Gehlot to step down as Chief Minister of Rajasthan before running for Congress President. He was also told that he should respect the leadership’s choice of who would replace him in Rajasthan.
Mr. Gehlot wanted to keep his Rajasthan job even while running for party chief. Rahul Gandhi clarified last week that this was not possible as the party would stick to its resolve of “one person, one post”.
Sonia Gandhi is also likely to meet Sachin Pilot, whose wait for the Rajasthan top post has gotten longer.
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