Congress presidential election: Ashok Gehlot calls meeting of party MLAs in Rajasthan tonight
Jaipur: Rajasthan Chief Minister and Gandhi family loyalist Ashok Gehlot, who will contest the Congress presidential election against another party veteran Shashi Tharoor, has called a meeting of party MLAs tonight at a time when his rival Sachin Pilot is away from town, said media reports.
Sachin Pilot is currently with Rahul Gandhi in Kerala for the latter's Bahrat Jodo Yatra. MLAs have been asked to stay back after dinner with Vice-President Jagdeep Dhakhar.
NDTV reported that Gehlot is likely to discuss this new development as he stepped in suddenly after Tharoor announced his candidature for the role of Congress president.
So far, Congress state units had been passing resolutions in a bid to add weight to their demand to have Rahul Gandhi as the Congress president once again.
Tharoor, though not one among the dissidents, called G23, in the Congress party, has been vocal about meaningful organisational changes, and free and fair internal elections.
Gehlot, on the other hand, believes in maintaining the status quo with only a member of the Gandhi family in the top role.
Even as a contest is well on the cards, Gehlot is clearly the favourite of the Gandhi family and has been so for a long time, according to the NDTV report.
For Gehlot, taking up the role would mean giving up the chief ministership, which he is reluctant to part with. If he does, his arch rival and former deputy Sachin Pilot will find a way to become the Rajasthan Chief Minister. Both Gehlot and his supporter MLAs don't want this as his position in state politics enables him to wield his power and keep his flock together.
While Gehlot agreed to file nomination for the election, the report said citing sources that he has conveyed to the Congress leadership about his desire to continue as the chief minister for some time, even after becoming Congress president.
The report said that Gehlot wants a loyalist to rule as his proxy in Rajasthan while he makes his move to national politics.
He also hopes to persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as Congress president when the Congress opens its election process.
In case, he can't find a suitable person to act as his proxy, he wants to keep both roles by taking over as working president of the Congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time chief.
The last date for filing nominations is September 30. The elections for Congress president, if needed (if there is more than one candidate), will be held on October 17. The results will be declared on October 19.