With the Congress leadership more or less not keen on Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot contesting the party presidential election after the events that unfolded in Jaipur on Sunday, a sense of uncertainty has gripped the party over the contest. With just three days left for the nomination process to close, the leadership is trying to navigate the situation despite professing neutrality in the event of a contest.
According to sources, senior Congress leader A K Antony has been called to Delhi for discussions. While sources close to Antony said the 81-year-old veteran would not contest, his arrival in Delhi tonight is an indication that Congress president Sonia Gandhi is reaching out to senior leaders to find a way out. On Monday, she held talks with veteran leader Kamal Nath who is not keen to leave Madhya Pradesh.
Lok Sabha MP Shashi Tharoor has declared he will contest for the top post and will file his nomination papers on September 30, the day nominations close. The first indication that there is no clarity on who will take him on and that a consensus could be reached, perhaps at the last minute, became clear with All India Congress Committee (AICC) treasurer Pawan Kumar Bansal collecting two sets of nomination papers on Monday.
Bansal told The Indian Express he had collected the form as a proposer for someone else. Asked who the candidate will be, he said, “It will become clear soon.”
The Congress leader went on to say, “I took the forms yesterday before I left Delhi for Chandigarh. I am returning to Delhi tonight. And I will not be going to Chandigarh for the next few days. So I have taken the forms and given them to Chandigarh Congress president Harmohinder Singh Lucky after signing as one of the proposers. I have taken it on behalf of the Chandigarh Congress president. Since the delegates can’t come to Delhi … they can sign the forms as supporters.”
“We have taken forms last time also when Rahul Gandhi had contested,” he added.
Meanwhile, Congress Central Election Authority’s head Madhusudan Mistry met Sonia Gandhi along with AICC data analytics department’s chairperson Praveen Chakravarty and AICC secretary B P Singh. They gave her the final list of PCC delegates — who form the electoral college for the Congress presidential election — and her QR-coded identity card.
With the developments in Jaipur on Sunday denting Gehlot’s bid for the Congress presidency, the names of several leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge, Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh, Mukul Wasnik, and Sushil Kumar Shinde are doing the rounds as probable candidates. The Congress leadership has also summoned Sachin Pilot to Delhi to discuss the developments in Rajasthan.