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Experience, Trust & 2024 Polls: Amid Buzz Over Cong Chief Post, Why Ashok Gehlot is Sonia Gandhi's Best Bet

By: Pallavi Ghosh

CNN-News18

Last Updated: August 24, 2022, 15:34 IST

New Delhi, India

Ashok Gehlot has administrative and organisational experience and being one of the longest-serving and successful chief ministers, the chances of him being accepted are high. (Twitter @ashokgehlot51)

Ashok Gehlot has administrative and organisational experience and being one of the longest-serving and successful chief ministers, the chances of him being accepted are high. (Twitter @ashokgehlot51)

With Gehlot as party president, the Gandhis hope to kill two birds with one stone since Sachin Pilot’s long-pending desire to become the chief minister of Rajasthan can be fulfilled

Will Ashok Gehlot be the saviour for an imploding Congress? The buzz of the Rajasthan chief minister leading the Grand Old Party has once gained steam ahead of the Congress’ August 28 meeting to finalise and release the schedule for the long-awaited polls to the party’s president post. While there is still some time before the meeting, the sweat behind the schedule is becoming palpable. Rahul Gandhi remains reluctant about taking over the mantle from Sonia Gandhi, who is adamant about not continuing as president. And, there is no way Priyanka Gandhi Vadra wants to be in the race.

So, can Gehlot bail out the Gandhis?

The veteran leader remains the front-runner for the post, given the advantages attached to him. Gehlot has administrative and organisational experience and being one of the longest-serving and successful chief ministers, the chances of him being accepted are high.

Sources say when Sonia Gandhi met Gehlot, she expressed her concern over the fact that Rahul Gandhi was not keen on taking over the responsibility and she was finding it difficult to get contenders for the top post.

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Though Gehlot too has been reluctant so far to take over the role as he wants to try his luck again in the state polls, if the veteran leader is convinced that the Congress stands no chance and the BJP could form the government, it is quite possible that he accepts the responsibility.

The main issue behind the move is of trust. From her personal experience, Sonia Gandhi remembers how Sitaram Kesri, who was the party president when she had not entered active politics, ensured that she and her loyalists were kept out. Sonia Gandhi had to ultimately step in as the party was on the verge of a major split. Learning from history, she clearly doesn’t want a repeat of the past and hence, the stress on Rahul Gandhi.

When asked about his future role, Gehlot denied any such move. “I have heard from the media but I am fulfilling the responsibilities given by my leader.”

However, the veteran leader has another advantage. Under his leadership, the Congress had come up with a surprisingly good performance in the last Gujarat polls. The party is yearning for a win in states as run-up to 2024 and the Gandhis feel Gehlot could be the right man for the top job. Also, with Gehlot as party president, the Gandhis hope to kill two birds with one stone since Sachin Pilot’s long-pending desire to become the chief minister of Rajasthan can be fulfilled.

WHO OTHER THAN GEHLOT?

Sonia Gandhi is also keen to focus her attention on the women vote bank, which has been the USP of the BJP till now. So, Ambika Soni is another name doing the rounds — a woman with years of experience who enjoys the complete trust of Sonia Gandhi. However, health and age are red flags, say those close to her, adding that there is no guarantee that Soni can gather the support of the rest of the party.

Sources in the Congress say the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’ and clear projection of Rahul Gandhi is the last attempt to push Rahul Gandhi to accept the top job. If the yatra is successful, Rahul Gandhi will be goaded again. But, for now, Gehlot remains the front-runner.

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first published:August 24, 2022, 12:59 IST
last updated:August 24, 2022, 15:34 IST