Ending all speculation, embattled Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot announced on Thursday that he would not run for Congress president in the aftermath of the succession fiasco in his state.
Gehlot arrived in the national capital on Wednesday night, three days after the political storm hit Rajasthan on Sunday. On Thursday afternoon, he arrived at the residence of Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi for a meeting. Soon after Gehlot and Congress general secretary KC Venugopal joined the meeting on 10 Janpath.
A high-voltage drama erupted in Rajasthan on Sunday when the MLAs loyal to Gehlot skipped the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and held a separate parallel meeting at the residence of urban development minister Shanti Dhariwal.
At the meeting at Dhariwal’s residence, MLAs belonging to Gehlot’s camp opposed the idea of electing Sachin Pilot as the next CM of the state. The MLAs also submitted their resignations to the House Speaker, CP Joshi.
Speaking to the media after an over one-and-a-half hour meeting, Gehlot said, “The incident in Rajasthan has given a different message across the country… I said last night that Rahul Gandhi had been holding the Bharat Jodo Yatra to unite the country. I met him in Kochi, requesting him to contest in the party chief elections. But he refused to contest. Looking at the sentiments of the leaders and workers, I said that I would contest.”
“But due to the incident three-four days ago, and because it was my moral responsibility that a resolution should have been passed, now under these circumstances, I will not contest in the Congress president’s election,” Gehlot said.
When asked if he would continue as Chief Minister, Gehlot said, “Sonia Gandhi will make the decision. “According to party sources, Gehlot, during his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, also offered to resign as the Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
Gehlot’s remarks virtually put a curtain on a remarkable turnaround of fortune for a man who is said to be the choice of the Gandhi family to succeed them as the next president of the Grand Old Party.
“The way in which, for the last 50 years, I have been with Congress since Indira Gandhi’s time, I have worked as a loyal worker. I have worked in different capacities at the party. But the incident that happened on Sunday shattered me. I am also hurt by the same. I said sorry to Sonia Gandhi,” Gehlot said.
Meanwhile, veteran party leaders Shashi Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh have collected the forms for the Congress presidential election. Both the leaders are expected to file their nominations by September 30.
In an interesting development, senior Jharkhand Congress leader KN Tripathi also collected a form for the Congress president, sending the rumour mills abuzz.
Congress is witnessing an election for the top post after a gap of 21 years. As per the new schedule, the date of notification is September 22, and the candidates can file their nominations between September 24 and 30. The last date of withdrawal will be October 8.
The date of the election (if needed) is October 17 (Monday) from 10 am to 4 pm. The date of counting and declaration of results (if needed) is October 19.