With Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot likely to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi during the day on Thursday, there is a realisation among senior leaders within the party that calling a Congress Legislature Party meeting in Jaipur to choose a new CM even before elections to the post of Congress president were concluded may have been a “tactical blunder”.
Rahul Gandhi, who is on a Bharat Jodo Yatra, is also understood to be of the view that the CLP meeting in Jaipur probably “sent a message of delegitimizing the process of election to the Congress party presidency” already under way.
It is true that the Congress central leadership agreed to the CLP meeting upon the suggestions of some, including Ajay Maken, but in retrospect this is being seen as eminently avoidable.
Further, some leaders sought to differentiate between the two types of leaders who are putting their hat in the ring for the Congress president election. The candidature of Gehlot, who is believed to have been asked by the party’s central leadership to contest, is different from those who have expressed interest like Shashi Tharoor and Digivijaya Singh, they said.
“This nuance needs to be understood… one was asked and the others sought to be in the fray, which the high command welcomed,” said a leader, who did not wish to be named.
“Of course, the Congress high command is not making any overt choices, but there is a distinction to be made between one who has been asked to contest and those who received the central leadership’s approval to contest,” the leader said.
About Sonia reportedly not meeting Gehlot on Wednesday, Congress general secretary K C Venugopal is learnt to have informed him on Tuesday about a meeting on Thursday. “He was to be informed about the timing of the meeting on Thursday morning. So, there is no question of Ms Gandhi not meeting him on Wednesday,” said another source.
Sources said that in two separate surveys conducted by the party in Rajasthan, it was clear that Gehlot had the overwhelming support of the cadre. Despite being from a community with just about 2 per cent representation in Rajasthan, Gehlot has built a base cutting across caste lines, while Sachin Pilot’s influence is more or less restricted to Gujjars, who make up about 10 per cent of the state’s population, they pointed out.
Sources also said that what transpired in Jaipur (where around 90 MLAs met at the residence of Gehlot loyalist Shanti Dhariwal, submitted their resignation to Speaker C P Joshi, and skipped the CLP meeting) is being seen as an “emotional outburst”. “This is not a big crime… it is an outburst (although surprising) by a leader who has been a Congress loyalist for decades,” said a source.
In the Congress leadership’s view, this is quite different from what happened in 2020 when Pilot – who was the Deputy Chief Minister and also the Congress state president at the time – was seen to have made an attempt to break the party and put the government in a crisis. “Many Congress loyalists in the state are unable to forget and forgive that act,” said the source.
The sources said the outcome of Thursday’s Ashok Gehlot-Sonia Gandhi meeting will clear the air on the choice of Rajasthan CM and the course of Congress presidency election. Both Gehlot and Venugopal have said that everything will be clear in a day or two and all issues will be sorted out.