Ashok Gehlot, who will run for congress president, has called a nightly meeting of the party’s MLAs while his rival Sachin Pilot is out of town. The Prime Minister of Rajasthan is likely to speak about contesting the congressional presidential election.
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Congress MLAs have been asked to stay back for a meeting in Jaipur tonight at 10pm after Mr Gehlot’s dinner for Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar. Sachin Pilot, who is in Kerala for Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, will be prominently absent from the meeting.
Mr Gehlot, 71, has long been the Gandhi’s choice to lead the Congress but is reportedly reluctant to step down from his role in Rajasthan. If he does, Sachin Pilot, his bitter rival and former deputy, will most likely step in.
Mr. Gehlot doesn’t agree, sources say, and neither do MLAs who support him. Sources say the show of strength is Mr. Gehlot’s way of rallying his MLAs and keeping his herd together at a time when big changes could be about to happen.
Although Mr Gehlot has agreed to submit his nomination on Monday when Congress opens its electoral process, he is reportedly hoping to persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as Congress President.
Sources say Mr. Gehlot has told congressional leadership that he wants to stay on as chief minister for some time, even after he becomes president of congress.
If he has to move into national politics, sources say he wants a Loyalist to rule as his deputy in Rajasthan. If not, then he wants to keep both roles by taking on the post of working president of Congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time chair.
Congress accepts nominations until September 30th. Elections for President of Congress, if necessary (if there is more than one candidate), will be held on October 17th. The results will be announced on October 19th.
Mr Gehlot has guarded his post so far, weathering crises including an alleged attempt by the BJP to overthrow his government and the Sachin Pilot revolt in 2020.
In 2020, Mr. Pilot rebelled against Mr. Gehlot and moved to Delhi with 18 MLAs. A months-long standoff ended after the Gandhis intervened.
Both Mr Gehlot and Mr Pilot found themselves in an intense race to become Chief Minister after Congress won Rajasthan’s 2018 election. Congress elected Mr. Gehlot chief minister for a third term, while Mr. Pilot was appointed his deputy, a post he lost after his rebellion.