NEW DELHI/JAIPUR: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday decided to depute senior party leader Kamal Nath to persuade Ashok Gehlot to resign from the post of Rajasthan Chief Minister before filing his nomination papers for the post of the party’s national president.
Sources said Kamal Nath has been asked to convey to Gehlot that if he does not resign, he would not be supported by the party high command for presidentship. They said if Gehlot does not heed to Kamal Nath’s message he may be asked not to file his nomination papers in the party election.
Kamal Nath, who flew in here from Bhopal on Monday, met Sonia at her residence. There was no clear word on whether he will fly to Jaipur to convey her message. Top Congress leaders told this paper that Gehlot’s rebellion may not only cost him Congress presidentship but may also lead to his removal from the post of chief minister as he has refused to accept his former deputy Sachin Pilot as his successor.
He has conveyed to the party leadership that he would not accept either Pilot or anyone from his camp. He said Pilot and the MLAs who had walked out with him to form a government with the help of the BJP are not acceptable to a large number of Congress MLAs.
Kamal Nath’s meeting with Gehlot is the party leadership’s last-ditch attempt to seek Gehlot’s compliance with its decision to hand over chief ministership to Pilot. Congress MLAs loyal to Gehlot had on Sunday refused to meet the party’s central observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge. The central observers were sent to get the MLAs to pass a resolution authorising the Congress president to choose the next chief minister. MLAs in the Gehlot camp refused to sign the resolution. The party leadership in Delhi feels the MLAs avoided the central observers on the direction of Gehlot.
This is being seen as an open rebellion by Gehlot against the Gandhi family and the party’s central leadership. Congress leaders in Delhi said the party has started looking for an alternative candidate for the post of Congress president. There are four days left for the nominations to close for the party’s presidential election. Nominations for the presidential elections close on September 30.
The Congress Legislature Party meeting, which was called on Sunday, had to be cancelled as more than 90 MLAs loyal to Gehlot threatened to resign. Gehlot loyalists Shanti Dhariwal and Chief Whip Mahesh Joshi are being seen by the high command as the key players in the drama.
Gehlot met Kharge in the hotel he was staying on Monday afternoon. Before leaving for Delhi, Kharge said, “Everyone will have to be on the same page with Congress president’s decision. There has to be unity and discipline in the party unit.” Dhariwal later alleged that Maken was part of a plot to unseat Gehlot as CM.