THE CONGRESS has called a meeting of its Legislature Party in Rajasthan on Sunday to elect a new leader to succeed Ashok Gehlot as Chief Minister, signalling that the senior leader will resign from the post before he formally files nomination papers for the party’s presidential elections.
The decision to call the CLP meeting came on a day when some of the party’s Rajasthan MLAs, who were considered to be close to Gehlot, backed Sachin Pilot for the Chief Minister’s post. Among them were state Rural Development Minister Rajendra Singh Gudha. BSP-turned-Congress MLA Wajib Ali, too, came out in support of Pilot.
Earlier on Saturday, the party’s Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor collected the nomination forms soon after the week-long window for filing of papers opened for the election on October 17. Counting of votes is scheduled for October 19. Only PCC delegates can contest the election.
On Friday, Gehlot had formally announced his decision to contest the election. Although he signalled his intention to step down as Chief Minister, he had not specified a time frame. The party’s decision to call a meeting of the CLP was a clear signal that he would resign before he files the nomination for the Congress top post.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, will be the AICC observer at the CLP meeting scheduled for 7 pm at the Chief Minister’s residence.
Kharge will be accompanied by AICC general secretary in charge of the state Ajay Maken. While Gehlot has said that the decision on his successor will be taken by the Congress high command, it is to be seen whether he will push for a candidate from his camp.
The Gandhis are largely said to be in favour of Pilot taking over, honouring an oral commitment they had given him in 2020 when he had staged a revolt against Gehlot. Pilot was then the Deputy Chief Minister and president of the Rajasthan Congress. He was sacked from both the posts.
The buzz in the Congress had been that the Gandhis had assured Pilot of a change of guard in Rajasthan at least a year before the Assembly elections. If Gehlot is on board the decision to anoint Pilot, he may propose his name at the CLP.
However, Gehlot had also spoken about factoring in the views of the MLAs — most of them are loyal to him. While Gehlot was said to be keen to continue for some more time, Rahul Gandhi’s public statement reaffirming the one person, one post principle adopted by the party at its Udaipur Chintan Shivir left him with little option.
“What we decided at Udaipur (chintan shivir)… that is a commitment of the Congress party. So I expect that commitment will be maintained,” Rahul had said in Kochi on Thursday.