Ashok Gehlot Apologises: What Next in Rajasthan & Congress President Race?
Who will be Congress president now and will Ashok Gehlot survive as CM in Rajasthan?
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot met interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday and apologised for what happened in Rajasthan earlier this week.
"What happened shook us all...I have apologised to Sonia Gandhi. The one line resolution is our tradition. That couldn't happen. As I am CM and I couldn't get it done. This is moral responsibility and I will always regret that I failed in it," Ashok Gehlot said after his meeting Sonia Gandhi.
So what happens next?
1. Ashok Gehlot Out of Congress president's race
The Quint had reported on 26 September that Gehlot is out of the Congress presidential election. This has now been confirmed. He made it clear in as many words after the meeting with Sonia Gandhi.
2. Shashi Tharoor vs Digvijaya Singh vs 'X'?
As of now, the Congress presidential race seems to be boiling down to a contest between Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor and former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijaya Singh. Both leaders have filed their nominations.
Will there be a third candidate?
This isn't sure at the moment. Neither of the two candidates are the first choice of the party high command. Will an 'officially backed' candidate emerge by Friday 30 September, the last day of filing the nominations?
Mallikarjun Kharge's name is doing the rounds.
Then there's also curiosity regarding the nominations forms that have reportedly been taken by Pawan Kumar Bansal, currently treasurer of the party.
Officially, the party leadership has said that they won't be taking sides.
But the president's position is too important to be entirely left to chance.
3. What happens to Gehlot in Rajasthan?
It is true that the Rajasthan fiasco - with MLAs failing to turn up for a meeting with central observers Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken - has left the high command embarrassed.
If Gehlot continues as CM, he would have achieved what he wanted. Is his apology sufficient to restore the high command's authority? Or will he have to resign?
After meeting Sonia Gandhi, Gehlot said, "This is not for me to decide. The Congress president will take this decision".
As of now it seems Gehlot may remain and that the high command may not want to destabilise one of its two state governments.
The report submitted by the Congress observers gives the high command a face saver as it doesn't recommend action against Gehlot and blames mainly three of his supporters - Shanti Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi and Dharmendra Rathore.
These three leaders could face action.
4. So Where Does That Leave Sachin Pilot?
If Gehlot remains as CM, Sachin Pilot will be the net loser in the entire episode. If Pilot threatens a rebellion over Gehlot's continuation, perhaps the high command may insist on a change and a consensus candidate - CP Joshi in all likelihood - will become CM in Rajasthan.
Even in that eventuality, Sachin Pilot wouldn't really be nearer to the CM's chair in any way.
In either case, he may still have to contend with waiting for a few more years for his chance in Jaipur.
Meanwhile whoever becomes Congress president may accommodate him in a prominent position in Delhi. It's unlikely that this would be enough for him.
The most realistic way out for him to reach that goal is wait it out. If the Congress loses the 2023 polls in Rajasthan, Pilot may get to command the state unit again.
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