Ashok Gehlot, who is set to run for Congress president, has called a late-night meeting of party MLAs at a time his rival Sachin Pilot is out of town. The Rajasthan Chief Minister is likely to talk about contesting the Congress president election.
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Congress MLAs have been asked to stay back for a meeting at 10 pm tonight in Jaipur, after Mr Gehlot’s dinner for Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar. Sachin Pilot, who is in Kerala for Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo Yatra” will be a prominent absentee at this meeting.
Mr Gehlot, 71, is the Gandhis’ choice for the leadership of the Congress, and has been for long, but he is reportedly reluctant to give up his Rajasthan role. If he does, Sachin Pilot, his bitter rival and former deputy, is mostly likely to step.
Mr Gehlot is not on board with that, say sources, and neither are MLAs who back him. Sources say the show of strength is Mr Gehlot’s way of rallying his MLAs and keeping his flock together at a time big changes may be ahead.
Though Mr Gehlot has agreed to file his nomination on Monday, when the Congress opens its election process, he is reportedly hoping to persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as Congress president.
Sources say Mr Gehlot has told the Congress leadership that he wants to stay on as Chief Minister for some time, even after becoming Congress president.
If he has to move to national politics, say sources, he wants a loyalist to rule as his proxy in Rajasthan. If not, then he wants to keep both roles by taking over as working president of the Congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time chief.
The Congress will accept nominations till September 30. The elections for Congress president, if needed (if there are more than one candidate), will be held on October 17. The results will be declared on October 19.
Mr Gehlot has guarded his post so far and weathered crises like an alleged BJP attempt to topple his government and the revolt by Sachin Pilot in 2020.
In 2020, Mr Pilot rebelled against Mr Gehlot and shifted to Delhi with 18 MLAs. A month-long standoff ended after the Gandhis intervened.
Both Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot were in an intense race to become Chief Minister after the Congress won the Rajasthan election in 2018. The Congress chose Mr Gehlot as Chief Minister for the third time while Mr Pilot was made his deputy, a post he lost after his rebellion.