Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Friday made it clear he will fight for the party’s president post and said irrespective of the outcome, it is necessary to work in a united manner and ensure the party emerges as a strong opposition.
Gehlot said this after meeting Rahul Gandhi in Kochi, where he joined the Bharat Jodo Yatra. Gehlot told reporters that Rahul Gandhi made it clear that no one from the Gandhi family should become the party chief. “I requested him multiple times to accept everyone’s wish that he returns as Congress President. He told me he had decided that no one from the Gandhi family should become the next chief,” Gehlot told reporters.
One person, one post
Gehlot has been reluctant to file his nomination for party president as he reportedly does not want to give up Rajasthan’s chief ministership and hand it to Sachin Pilot, his known rival. He had even suggested that he could handle both responsibilities, but Rahul Gandhi shot it down.
Also read: In Kerala, Rahul shoots down Ashok Gehlot’s double-role ideas
“We have made a commitment in Udaipur, I expect that the commitment will be maintained,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters on the ‘one-person, one-post’ rule adopted by the Congress earlier this year.
On this issue Gehlot told reporters that any call on his successor to head the Rajasthan government will be taken by party interim president Sonia Gandhi and Congress Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken.
He was asked if he would have a say in the matter. “I can’t say that standing from Kochi. Our general secretary in charge Mr Ajay Maken and Congress president Sonia Gandhi will decide” on the related developments in Rajasthan and when it is to be done, he added.
“I will fix the date (to submit the nomination papers) after going (back to Rajasthan), but I have decided that I will have to contest. It is a question of democracy and let us make a new start,” he said.
Contest with ‘Congress friends’
With speculation rife that Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor is likely to jump into the fray, Gehlot said other “Congress friends” may also contest but what matters is unity and the need to strengthen the organisation at all levels.
“There are Congress friends. Even if they contest, there is no issue. After the results, we should work together to strengthen the Congress at the block, village, district levels and also move forward making our (Congress) thought process as the base so that we emerge as a strong opposition,” he added.
Considering the present situation in the country, there is a need for a strong opposition, the veteran Congress leader said.
More aspirant leaders
With Gandhis deciding not to enter the party president’s race nor to openly support any candidate, more Congress names are emerging as candidates to succeed Sonia Gandhi, the party’s longest serving party president.
Apart from Gehlot and Tharoor, former Union minister Manish Tewari and former Madhya Pradesh chief ministers Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh are also reportedly considering joining the contest.
Also read: Can Gandhis replace Gehlot with Pilot without replaying Punjab in Rajasthan?
The Congress had on Thursday issued notification for the party president post. Applicants for the top job can come forward till September 30. The election will be held on October 17 and the Congress will get its new chief two days later.