Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot’s overnight transformation from a staunch Gandhi family loyalist to a near-rebel who cocked a snook at the leadership has put a cloud on his bid for the Congress presidency.
The open defiance of the MLAs close to Gehlot Sunday has left the leadership fuming, but there was no immediate decision to enforce the planned change of guard in Rajasthan, sources said. The high command, sources said, will plan its next move carefully, factoring in the pushback and the support of the MLAs that the Gehlot camp has.
The leadership, however, has taken a very serious view of the parallel meeting held by MLAs close to Gehlot. Sources said show cause notices will be issued to some of the organisers of the parallel meeting.
A day after the powerplay in Jaipur – a large number of MLAs loyal to Gehlot stayed away from a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party, held a parallel meeting and submitted their resignations to the Speaker – the party, in a rare move, made public what transpired between closed doors and called the muscle-flexing by the MLAs as indiscipline.
Several party leaders said the developments have cast a shadow on Gehlot’s move to file nominations for the post of Congress president.
The leadership was so cut-up with Gehlot that Ajay Maken, AICC general secretary in charge of Rajasthan, did not meet the Chief Minister when he reached the hotel in Jaipur where Maken and AICC observer Mallikarjun Kharge were staying.
Kharge, however, met him. Sources said Gehlot told Kharge that the mini-rebellion by the MLAs was not done at his behest and things went out of his hands.
The party’s Central leaders said the MLAs could have attended the meeting, aired their views frankly and left the decision to the Congress president by passing a one-line resolution. They could also have later met the leadership with their demands.
But their decision to stay away from an official meeting called by the party for which the Congress president had sent observers was seen as open defiance.
The Gehlot camp, meanwhile, fielded its leaders including Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas to claim that the huddle by the MLAs at Minister Shanti Dhariwal’s residence and the move to submit resignations were not done at the behest of Gehlot.
The Sachin Pilot camp was dejected initially but signals emerging from the high command that the Gandhis are annoyed with Gehlot has enthused them. Sources close to Pilot said he is still very much hopeful of becoming the Chief Minister despite the show of strength by the Gehlot camp.