Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Wednesday (August 24) sought to play down reports about him being the front-runner to become Congress president and said efforts will be made till the last moment to persuade Rahul Gandhi to take over the reins of the party again.
Gehlot’s remarks came a day after he met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi which triggered the buzz that the two may have discussed the possibility of him being the next party president.
Speaking with reporters on the sidelines of the Rajasthan government’s Investor Summit event in New Delhi, the Congress leader said, “We will try to persuade Rahul Gandhi ji till the last moment to take over as Congress president. The Congress Working Committee meeting is being held on August 28. We would like him to be the president.”
Gehlot said, “if Rahul Gandhi does not become the president, many people will be disappointed and will sit at home.” Earlier in the day after landing in Delhi from Ahmedabad, Gehlot said nobody knows what will be decided when asked about reports about him being considered for the post of Congress president.
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“Sonia (Gandhi) has gone abroad for a checkup. K C Venugopal and I paid a courtesy call on her. This has been doing the rounds in the media for a long time. You keep talking about it. Nobody knows what is going to be decided,” he said.
The veteran Congress leader added that he is concentrating on the two responsibilities given to him, senior observer for the upcoming Gujarat assembly polls and chief minister of Rajasthan. He asserted that his efforts were directed at ensuring the Congress government retained power in Rajasthan.
Pressed by reporters on the party presidency question, Gehlot shot back, “has anybody briefed you at AICC? No one has done that. The media keeps on speculating. Till a decision is made, neither you nor I can comment on it.”
Addressing a press conference in Ahmedabad this morning, Gehlot had said he was hearing the talk about the party presidency from the media and did not know about it. “I am fulfilling duties that have been assigned to me,” he said.
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In a scenario of having a non-Gandhi president, the names of Gehlot, Kamal Nath, K C Venugopal, Meira Kumar and Kumari Selja have been doing the rounds.
The Congress Working Committee (CWC), the party’s highest decision-making body will hold a virtual meeting on Sunday to approve the schedule of dates for the election of the Congress president. Sonia Gandhi will preside over the CWC meeting.
Several leaders including Gehlot have been publicly exhorting Rahul Gandhi to become party chief again. However, uncertainty and suspense continue on the issue. Several party insiders say Rahul Gandhi is persisting with his stance that he will not be the AICC president.
He resigned as Congress president after the party suffered its second consecutive defeat in parliamentary elections in 2019. Sonia Gandhi who took over the reins of the party again as interim president had also offered to quit in August 2020 after an open revolt by a section of leaders referred to as G-23, but the CWC had urged her to continue.
(With inputs from agencies)