NEW DELHI: Ashok Gehlot is likely to be the next president of Congress but will have to step down as chief minister of Rajasthan. Gehlot, seen as the nominee of Gandhis, announced his decision to enter the fray while acquiescing to the insistence to quit his position in Jaipur.
Gehlot, who had on Wednesday declared his intent to continue as Rajasthan CM even if he was elected as Congress chief, gave up his insistence after Rahul Gandhi declared that the new party chief would have to adhere to the “one man one post” principle.
“What we decided in Udaipur is a commitment of the Congress. So I expect that the commitment will be maintained,” said Rahul. Immediately afterwards, Gehlot termed Rahul’s position “correct”, saying that no Congress president has ever been a chief minister. The development on the sensitive issue came hours after Congress election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry on Thursday morning issued the much-awaited notification to announce the start of the election process, which is likely to witness a contest after 22 years.
Seen as the leadership’s choice and a frontrunner in the clash that may pit him against Kerala MP Shashi Tharoor, Gehlot joined Rahul for a few hours in the “Bharat Jodo Yatra” at Kochi, like Sachin Pilot did on Wednesday.
The CM had earlier announced that he will meet Rahul as part of his last-ditch attempt to convince him to take over the reins of the party. Rahul may fly in from Kerala on Friday to discuss the issue with the Congress chief.
While the outcome of a Gehlot vs Tharoor clash would be a foregone conclusion, the real drama lies in who will replace Gehlot in Jaipur. Gehlot told reporters: “Let us see what situation unfolds in Rajasthan, what decision the Congress leadership takes, what the MLAs think.”
Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot has an overwhelming support in the legislature party. Gehlot may not be averse to quitting the CM’s post, and his claim about holding both the posts was likely a maximalist position to enable him to have a decisive say in picking his successor, who he wants should be his trusted individual over bete noire Sachin Pilot.
The names of assembly speaker C P Joshi, a multiple-term minister and a Brahmin minister are high on Gehlot’s list. A senior office-bearer said Pilot is a serious option in the list of probables. “The leadership will decide,” he said. Sources said discussion on Gehlot’s replacement is part of the presidential election, and is going on simultaneously — implying it may be finalised by the end of the election.
The CM’s two-hour-long meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday appears to have touched upon the ticklish issue, especially because of the presence of Pilot as an aspirant.