Rajasthan Prime Minister Ashok Gehlot, a front-runner for Congress chief, met with his MLAs last night and told them he was “going nowhere,” sources said. The meeting came after he hosted a dinner for Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar
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This comes amid speculation that if the Congress veteran moves to Delhi as party leader, the chief minister post could go to his bitter rival Sachin Pilot, whose rebellion nearly toppled his government.
The 71-year-old congressional veteran reportedly told lawmakers that he would submit a nomination for the post of congressional chairman. “Tha soon door nahi (I won’t be far from you),” he told the MLAs, sources said.
Mr. Gehlot added that he will continue to serve Rajasthan wherever he goes. “Mainly kahin nahin ja raha, chinta mat karo (I’m not going anywhere, don’t worry),” he said, making it clear he has no intention of leaving the post of chief minister at this time.
He told MLAs he will meet party President Sonia Gandhi today and fly out tonight to meet Rahul Gandhi who is on Bharat Jodo Yatra – a congressional march from Kanyakumari to Kashmir to rally support ahead of the 2024 general election.
Mr Gehlot has reportedly told the MLAs that he will try to persuade Rahul Gandhi to become party leader “one last time”. Mr Gandhi resigned from his post after Congress’ poor performance in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and has since refused to return.
Rajasthan chief minister told MLAs that they must all come to Delhi when he submits his nomination. He said he will “do what the party commands” and that he is a “loyal soldier.”
According to sources, Mr Gehlot has told congressional leaders that he wants to stay on as prime minister of Rajasthan for some time, even if he becomes party leader, apparently to block Mr Pilot’s attempt to fill the political vacuum.
Sources said if he has to move to the state capital, Mr Gehlot would want a loyalist in the seat of power at home. If not, then he would want to keep both roles, taking on the post of working president of Congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time boss, it turned out.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor has also declared his intention to run for the top post and received the green light from Ms Gandhi. While Mr Gehlot is a staunch loyalist to the Gandhi family, Mr Tharoor was part of 23 senior party leaders who called for sweeping reforms in the party in a letter to Ms Gandhi in 2020.
Congress is accepting nominations for party leader until September 30. The elections are scheduled for October 17th and the results will be announced on October 19th.