Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot reached New Delhi on Wednesday night to meet the Congress leadership amid suspense over his filing of nomination for the post of the party president. Gehlot told reporters in Delhi that he would meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.
Talking to reporters after landing in Delhi, Gehlot said, “We work under the Congress president. Decisions will be taken as per that in the time to come. The media should recognise the issues of the country. Authors, journalists are being called anti-nationals and jailed. We worry for them and Rahul Gandhi is on (Bharat Jodo) yatra for them."
The chief minister boarded a special flight for New Delhi at 9.30 pm, according to sources. During the day, his plan changed thrice. Ahead of his visit, some ministers and MLAs turned up at the CM’s house to meet him.
After the meeting, Cabinet Minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas had told reporters that the chief minister will be leaving for Delhi around 5 pm today to express the feelings of 102 party MLAs. Apart from Khachariyawas, Speaker C P Joshi, state Congress president Govind Singh Dotasra, minister Shanti Dhariwal, and Mahesh Joshi also met the chief minister.
Khachariyawas said it was a routine meeting and Gehlot’s interaction with the Speaker was no different. He said whether CM will file nomination for the party president or not, this is a decision of the high command.
“The chief minister is not resigning as of today," he said replying to a question. Gehlot’s visit comes a day after the Congress issued show-cause notices to three of his loyalists-Shanti Dhariwal and Mahesh Joshi, and Dharmendra Rathore-for their “grave indiscipline".
The party’s disciplinary committee has asked the three to explain within 10 days why action should not be initiated against them after the observers for Rajasthan, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, in their report to party chief Sonia Gandhi charged them with “gross indiscipline". The action came after 82 MLAs participated in a parallel meeting at Dhariwal’s residence in Jaipur, laying down conditions to the party and did not attend the official legislature party meeting convened for passing a resolution authorising the Congress chief to appoint a successor to Gehlot.
With the Rajasthan episode posing a significant challenge before the party, the Congress president has initiated discussions with senior party leaders from across the country to resolve the crisis even as the fate of Gehlot who was considered frontrunner for the top party post remained uncertain. Several names have cropped up for the probable presidential candidate, including Kharge, A K Antony, Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh, Ambika Soni and Pawan Kumar Bansal, though most of them ruled themselves out of the race. The name of Gehlot for the top party post is, however, not completely ruled out yet, according to sources.
Among various senior leaders, Gandhi is learnt to have called Congress veterans A K Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde for consultations here. There is also a likelihood that fresh observers may be sent to Rajasthan and Shinde may be one of them.
Gandhi is considering resolving the matter after consultations with top party leaders who are keeping their fingers crossed on the situation. After the developments in Jaipur, sources said Gehlot reached out to Sonia Gandhi and is learnt to have explained his position, while his arch-rival Sachin Pilot rushed to Delhi ahead of any decision on Rajasthan.
Gehlot is learnt to have told Gandhi that he was not behind the parallel meet of MLAs and it was organised without his knowledge. The Rajasthan chief minister is also understood to have told Gandhi that he would abide by any decision taken by her and the party, the sources said.
Gehlot also held a closed-door meeting with party MLAs in Jaipur on Tuesday and is learnt to have apprised them of the latest developments. Gehlot was considered a favourite for the post of Congress president and had the blessings of Sonia Gandhi. The latest developments have marred his prospects for the top party position, though he is yet not out of the race.
Amid suspense over Gehlot’s fate, the party’s central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry on Tuesday said AICC treasurer Pawan Kumar Bansal has collected nomination forms but these may be for someone else. Bansal said he is not in the race. Mistry said Shashi Tharoor will file his nomination papers for the Congress chief’s election on September 30 and his representative has got two more nomination forms on Wednesday.
Mistry said he had met party chief Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence and handed over her QR-coded identity card for the party president’s election. He later met former prime minister Manmohan Singh and handed over identity card to him.