Monday, Nov 28, 2022

Congress Crisis: All Eyes On Sonia Gandhi As Plot Thickens In Rajasthan Over Adamant Ashok Gehlot Loyalists

Over 90 Congress MLAs have threatened to resign if Sachin Pilot is elevated to the post of the Chief Minsiter of Rajasthan, as incumbent Ashok Gehlot is expected to quit once is elected as the Congress President. Congress leaders sent to Rajasthan have returned to Delhi to hold deliberations with Sonia Gandhi and party brass.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot
Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot PTI

Senior Congress leaders are converging in Delhi at the residence of Congress President Sonia Gandhi to deliberate on the crisis in Rajasthan. 

Over 90 MLAs in Rajasthan have threatened to resign over the issue of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's successor. Sachin Pilot, earlier believed to be a successor favoured by the Congress high command, is unacceptable to them. 

These Gehlot loyalist MLAs on late Sunday night offered to submit their resignation to the Assembly Speaker C P Joshi. These MLAs also snubbed central Congress observers Mallikarajun Kharge and Ajay Maken, who were at Gehlot's residence with Pilot and his faction of MLAs and were waiting for them for the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting. 

Kharge and Ajay Maken —in-charge of Rajasthan— have been trying to pursuade the MLAs to resolve the crisis with one-to-one conversations. 

The three conditions of Ashok Gelot loyalists

The MLAs loyal to Gehlot have put forward three conditions.

Rajasthan Cabinet ministers Shanti Dhariwal, Pratap Singh Khachariyawas, and Mahesh Joshi, along with Gehlot's advisor Sanyam Lodha met Congress observers Kharge and Maken and conveyed their conditions, according to sources. These conditions are:

1. They urged the observers to hold the decisions on Gehlot's replacement until the party presidential elections are over. 

2. They called for Gehlot's engagement in the selection process. 

3. They wanted somebody who stood by the government during Pilot's rebellion in 2020. 

The third condition rules out Pilot, who had rebelled against Gehlot's government in 2020 with his faction of 18 MLAs.

Congress leaders converging at Sonia Gandhi's residence

Congress central observers Kharge and Maken returned to Delhi on Monday after a planned meeting of the CLP failed to take place. They met Sonia at her 10 Janpath residence soon after their return from Jaipur.

Maken said they would submit their report to Sonia after which the party's further strategy would be chalked out. He added he and Kharge kept waiting for the party MLAs in Jaipur on Sunday night but they did not turn up.

MLAs loyal to Gehlot refraining from separately meeting Kharge and Maken. They held a parallel meeting in favour of Gehlot remaining as the chief minister and put forth a series of demands.

"We are returning to New Delhi to apprise Sonia Gandhi of the developments," said Maken before leaving for Delhi.

Senior party leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath is also expected to reach New Delhi to meet Sonia. Nath is known to have close ties with Gehlot and could be asked to broker a truce.

AICC General Secretary (Organisation) K C Venugopal arrived at Sonia's residence to discuss the situation arising in Rajasthan after a virtual revolt by a majority of the party MLAs. Former leader of opposition in Rajasthan Rameswar Dudy also met Sonia amid the developments.

Parallel meeting of Gehlot loyalists is indiscipline: Ajay Maken

Maken slammed the Gehlot loyalists for setting conditions for a party resolution, terming it a "conflict of interest", and said their decision to hold a parallel meeting amounted to indiscipline.

"In the 75 years of the Congress's history, there has never been a conditional resolution. A resolution is only a one-line document. Everything is told to the Congress president and then a decision is taken. A resolution should not have any conflict of interest. Those who are contesting elections and tomorrow, might become the party president, if they get to decide on the resolution, it is a conflict of interest. So, it is wrong," said Maken before leaving for Delhi, without naming Gehlot.

He further said, "We will listen to everyone. No decision is being taken. Whatever you will say will be conveyed to Delhi...We have directions to hold one-on-one meetings with the MLAs so that they speak frankly."

"If a decision is not taken keeping the MLAs' sentiments in mind, the government will be in danger," said Independent legislator and advisor to the chief minister Sanyam Lodha.

The high drama has also put a question mark on whether Gehlot would still run for the party president's post or someone else would replace him as a candidate supported by the current leadership. Gehlot has maintained that the "one man, one post" formula does not apply to him as the Congress presidential poll is an internal affair.

(With PTI inputs)