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Ashok Gehlot out of Congress presidential race, party to keep status quo in Rajasthan

Eighty-two Rajasthan MLAs loyal to Ashok Gehlot rebelled against the Congress high command on Sunday over the possibility of Sachin Pilot becoming the next CM.

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Eighty-two MLAs loyal to Ashok Gehlot resigned on Sunday, triggering crisis in Rajasthan Congress. (File photo: PTI)
Eighty-two MLAs loyal to Ashok Gehlot resigned on Sunday, triggering crisis in Rajasthan Congress. (File photo: PTI)

In Short

  • 82 Rajasthan Cong MLAs resigned, triggering crisis in party’s state unit
  • Gehlot faction listed three demands for party resolution
  • Ashok Gehlot has been pulled out of Congress chief race

By Anuja Jha: Once again, Congress leadership finds itself dealing with a crisis within a state unit. Over the past one year, the Congress high command had to deal with miffed leaders in Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand. And now it is Rajasthan Congress.

As many as 82 Congress MLAs submitted their resignation ahead of the party meeting where discussion on the next chief ministerial candidate was likely to be raised. As Ashok Gehlot had confirmed his bid for Congress presidential polls, there were speculation that Sachin Pilot would be appointed as the next Rajasthan CM. This was unacceptable to Ashok Gehlot loyalist who have yet to forgive Pilot for his earlier rebellion.

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This led to a standoff between the Congress leadership and Gehlot loyalists, with party high command seeking a report from its party observers, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, on the political situation in Rajasthan. Meanwhile, as crisis erupted over the Rajasthan CM post, Ashok Gehlot seems to be inching out of the Congress chief post race.

ALSO READ | Rajasthan crisis: Five mistakes Congress made in the Gehlot-Pilot saga

Notably, with top leadership standing by its policy of ‘one person, one post’, Ashok Gehlot had little chance to retain CM post if he became Congress chief.

Here are the top developments in the story:

WHAT TRIGGERED RAJASTHAN CRISIS?

High drama unfolded in Rajasthan on Sunday night after over 80 Rajasthan Congress MLAs submitted their resignation letters to the assembly Speaker, CP Joshi, at his residence. The MLAs of the Gehlot faction adopted a stand against Sachin Pilot and his candidature to be the next chief minister if Ashok Gehlot is elected the Congress chief.

However, 82 MLAs loyal to Gehlot had submitted their resignation letters ahead of a legislature party meeting called by central party observers, Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge.

Soon after, senior party leadership jumped into action to troubleshoot the brewing trouble. Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, who were present in Rajasthan as party observers, spoke to Ashok Gehlot right away.

"Mere bass mein kuch nahi hain (nothing is in my hands)," Ashok Gehlot had reportedly told KC Venugopal on Sunday.

DEMANDS BY GEHLOT LOYALISTS

As the party looked for resolution to the crisis, the MLAs loyal to CM Ashok Gehlot put forward three conditions:

1) A decision on the selection of chief minister should be taken after the Congress presidential election.

2) The chief minister should be from among those MLAs who stood with the government during the political crisis in 2020 and not from the Pilot camp.

3) The AICC observers should hold meetings in groups instead of one-to-one as sought by the high command.

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‘CONFLICT OF INTEREST’

As the crisis unfolded in the Rajasthan Congress, senior party leader Ajay Maken hit out at the Ashok Gehlot faction. Ajay Maken slammed the MLAs, calling the conditional resolution a “conflict of interest”. He said the Gehlot faction’s decision to hold a parallel meeting while the legislature party meeting was set to be held amounted to indiscipline.

"Resolution should not have any conflict of interest. Those who are contesting elections and tomorrow become party president, they get to decide on the resolution and this is a conflict of interest. So, it is wrong," Ajay Maken said without naming Gehlot.

TOP BRASS MEET IN DELHI

A day later, Congress leadership huddled in the national capital. Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge flew back to Delhi to brief Sonia Gandhi on the ongoing crisis within the Rajasthan Congress. The party chief was made aware of the demands of the Gehlot loyalists. However, no resolution was presented today. Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge have been asked to submit a written report to party high command.

Ajay Maken comes out after meeting Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)

Meanwhile, senior Congress leaders including KC Venugopal, Kamal Nath, Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, also met Sonia Gandhi on Monday. Notably, sources have said that Kamal Nath has been asked to mediate a feud between the Sachin Pilot and Ashok Gehlot faction.

STATUS QUO TILL CONGRESS CHIEF POLL NOMINATION

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In the backdrop of recent developments, the Congress High Command is unlikely to take up the change in leadership in Rajasthan till the nomination process for party chief polls is over (September 30).

Congress observers- Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge- met Sonia Gandhi on Monday to brief her about the political situation in Rajasthan. They will submit a written report on Tuesday.

Sonia Gandhi will likely take action against certain leaders for ‘indiscipline’ on the basis of report submitted by party observers.

GEHLOT OUT OF CONGRESS CHIEF RACE

As Gehlot loyalists’ resignation plunged the Rajasthan Congress into crisis, Ashok Gehlot found himself falling out of favour of party high command. A senior Congress leader told India Today that Ashok Gehlot is now out of the Congress presidential race.

“He (Ashok Gehlot) is out of the Congress presidential race. There will be other leaders who will file the nomination before Sep 30. Mukul Wasnik, Mallikarjun Kharge, Digvijaya Singh, KC Venugopal in the race,” the senior Congress leader said.

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Another party leader added, “The way Gehlot behaved hasn’t gone down well with the party leadership. They are very upset with him.”

ALSO READ | Rajasthan desert storm: Options before Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot

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