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Ashok Gehlot ‘out’ of Cong president poll, question before high command: how ‘in’ should it be

Not clear if the leadership, which originally wanted Gehlot to contest, is still looking for a candidate of its choice; and if Digvijaya is that choice

Congress President Sonia Gandhi with Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. (Express photo by Rohit Jain Paras/File)

With Ashok Gehlot bowing out of the Congress presidential race, the question of who will be the candidate with the blessings of the leadership – if not the official or establishment candidate – is now staring at the face of the party rank and file. The question of whether Gehlot will continue as Chief Minister is also open.

For now, the Congress leadership has asserted its authority by managing to make Gehlot come to Delhi, publicly apologise to Sonia Gandhi and leave the choice of his successor in Rajasthan to her, after a meeting that lasted one-and-a-half hours.

The window for nominations for the Congress president post will close Friday. So far, senior leaders Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor have declared their intention to file nominations, and collected papers for the same. However, the question now is whether the leadership, which originally wanted Gehlot to contest, is still looking for a candidate of its choice.

While Tharoor entered the race on his own, and later met Sonia to rule out any discord, it is not clear whether Digvijaya is doing so at the behest of the leadership or not, or if his bid is serious or just a smokescreen.

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Several interpretations are also being drawn from Gehlot’s statement that he takes “moral responsibility” for the CLP meeting fiasco in Jaipur on September 25; it was supposed to meet and pass a one-line resolution authorising the Congress president to take a decision on the next CM.

A clear picture is likely to emerge after Gehlot’s bete noire Sachin Pilot meets Sonia later on Thursday.

After his meeting with Sonia, Gehlot declared that he had been a loyal soldier of the party all his life, right from Indira Gandhi’s time. “I was always trusted and given responsibilities, be it that of a Union minister, PCC president, AICC general secretary. And with Soniaji’s blessings, I became the CM for the third time,” he said.

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The incident that happened on September 25 “shook all of us”, Gehlot said. “A message went across the country that I wanted to remain as Chief Minister, and that is why (all that) happened. I have apologised to Sonia… sorry feel kiya hai.”

On the CLP meeting that could not happen, he said the one-line resolution should have been passed (his supporters have questioned the insistence on this). “One simple resolution… one-line resolution… it is our tradition to pass that one-line resolution (authorising the Congress president) when a decision is to be made on a CM. Unfortunately, that resolution could not be passed,” Gehlot said, adding that he took responsibility for it.

“Because I am the CLP leader and Chief Minister, and I could not get that resolution passed, whatever the reasons may be, it is my moral responsibility… For the first time, a resolution could not be passed in line with our tradition. Is baat ka dukh mujhe hamesha, zindagi bhar, rahega (I will always regret it, all my life)… I told Soniaji that,” he said.

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On contesting for Congress president, he said that given what had happened, the message it had sent, and “my moral responsibility to get the resolution passed”, “I have decided that, is mahaul ke andar main chunav nahin ladunga (I will not contest under such circumstances). That is my decision.”

On whether he will remain CM, he said he will not take that decision. “Sonia Gandhi will take that decision.”

First published on: 29-09-2022 at 04:39:53 pm
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