Hours before the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) is set to meet on Sunday evening, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot hinted for the first time that he might step down as chief minister. The 71-year-old leader is in the running to be the Congress’s next president.
“I have been doing politics for fifty years (started from) NSUI. For forty years, I have been in one or other post, constitutional posts, whether it’s MP, three-time Union Minister, three-time PCC president, three-time AICC General Secretary and three-time chief minister. What more can a person get? It is on my mind that the new generation should get a chance. Everyone should come together to give leadership to the country,” said Gehlot told reporters in Jaisalmer on Sunday afternoon.
He went on to say, “The party has trusted me. Sonia Gandhi ji, before that Indira Gandhi ji, Rajiv Gandhi ji, and Rahul Gandhi ji. I have been a minister since the time of Narasimha Rao ji. Since the party has trusted me, it is my duty that whatever they tell me, I will accept it.”
Asked about policies on sports and for the youth in the next Budget, the CM said, “I will brief the person who becomes the next chief minister about your thoughts, (tell him) to focus on the youth and students in the Budget.”
The CLP meeting is scheduled to be held in Jaipur at 7 pm and will be attended by, among others, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who has been appointed as an observer, and Ajay Maken who is the central leader in charge of Rajasthan.
Gehlot claimed it was the media that had been saying he doesn’t want to relinquish his post although no such thought had come to his mind. Taking a dig, he said the media in Delhi “doesn’t know about the ground reality”.
“I told the high command back in August that winning the next election is very important for the Congress. If the Congress wins (in Rajasthan), then the Congress will start winning all states once again and the party will be strengthened. I said this back in August. The news about me becoming the (Congress) president has been circulating now but even before that, I told Sonia ji and our general secretary in-charge Maken ji. Nobody knew about this till now, for the first time I am telling you,” said the veteran leader.
He added, “I told them earlier that the next elections should be fought under the leadership of a person who will increase the chances of winning the elections. Be it me or someone else, select him and form the government. It is necessary that we win the elections. I said this on August 9.”
In an interview to The Indian Express on Thursday, the CM said that though the “one person, one post” principle in the party’s Udaipur Declaration did not apply to party positions for which elections are held, a person holding two posts would not be able to “do justice to the Congress presidency”.
The veteran leader said the Congress high command had made it clear that it would remain neutral during the party presidential election. “Where I am going or not going, only time will tell this. At present, it is my desire to go nowhere and stay within Rajasthan to serve the public till my last breath. It is not necessary that I stay on as CM. It doesn’t matter to me whether I stay on in a post or not.”
He added, “Whenever the CLP meets during elections or for the selection of chief minister, a one-line proposal is passed that we are giving the right (to make the decision) to the Congress president. This has been our tradition. I believe this will happen today too.”
Gehlot said he had worked for the poor and the common man across all sectors, including social security. “Even at the time of Pandit Nehru, people said who after Nehru? After Nehru, people have come, the country continues to function. Even when I am not here, the state will function. Sarkarein banegi, bigdegi, sab baatein hogi (Governments will be formed, they will fall, and things will go on),” said the CM.