NEW DELHI: The suspense over the Congress presidential candidates moved to the penultimate day of filing of nomination papers, as the widely expected meeting between party president Sonia Gandhi and Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot got postponed to Thursday. Gehlot was closeted with his confidants right through the day at Jaipur and was expected to arrive in Delhi late in the night.
As suspense over whether or not Gehlot would agree to resign as CM to file his nomination papers continued, names of other Congress probables started doing the rounds. Right on top of the list was that of former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijaya Singh, who shares a close personal equation with Rahul Gandhi. Gandhi family loyalist Ambika Soni, considered close to Sonia, could also be on the ballot.
Others include the party’s top Dalit leaders like Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, AICC general secretary Mukul Wasnik, former Maharashtra chief minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and former Haryana president of Congress Kumari Selja. Party treasurer Pawan Kumar Bansal’s name is also being mentioned as a possible contender.
On Wednesday, Sonia Gandhi consulted Ambika Soni and A K Antony, who was called from Kerala where he is leading a retired life, on the Rajasthan crisis. She was advised to meet Gehlot one last time to try and iron out the differences.
The two central observers Ajay Maken and Mallikarjun Kharge shielded Gehlot in their report after returning from Jaipur where they were not able to meet the party MLAs loyal to the CM. These MLAs opposed to the high command’s plan to replace Gehlot with his former deputy Sachin Pilot and refused to sign a resolution authorising Sonia to pick the successor. Gehlot was originally scheduled to leave Jaipur at 5.30 pm but delayed his departure.
‘To express feelings of loyalists’
“The CM is going to Delhi to express the feelings of 102 MLAs, as their guardian, with the party leadership,” minister Pratap Khachariyawas said.