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Congress engages senior leaders to end Rajasthan crisis

Gehlot and Pilot had already clashed over who would be chief minister soon after the Congress won the state election in 2018.

September 27, 2022 / 06:21 PM IST
 (File image)

(File image)

As the political crisis deepens in Congress-ruled Rajasthan, the party’s high command has engaged the services of veterans Kamal Nath, Ajay Maken, and Mallikarjun Kharge to break the deadlock.

At the root of the problem is the tussle between two state strongmen, Ashok Gehlot, the present chief minister, and Sachin Pilot, the next-gen leader whom the party’s central leadership had proposed as a replacement for Gehlot, who has to vacate the CM seat if he is elected party president.

Over 90 MLAs believed to be loyal to Gehlot submitted their resignation to Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C P Joshi on Sunday evening to stall Pilot’s CM ambitions.

After the state factional feud erupted in the full public glare, current party president Sonia Gandhi on Monday called senior Congress leader Nath to her 10, Janpath residence to thrash out the issue.

According to a person aware of the matter, “Kamal Nath, who is known to have close ties with Ashok Gehlot, was told to mediate and end the brewing crisis. Nath was also advised to speak to senior leaders of the Rajasthan Pradesh Congress Committee.”

Before meeting Nath, Gandhi had a discussion with Kharge and Maken, who had visited Rajasthan in the wake of the dispute. The leaders briefed her about the developments in the state, where MLAs skipped a meeting with them.

Both Kharge and Maken have been told to submit a written report regarding the crisis in the party's state unit. The person cited above said, “The report is likely to be submitted on Wednesday. In the report, the whole sequence of events will be mentioned.”

Maken, who is also the Congress’ point person for Rajasthan, is speaking to leaders on the ground to soothe frayed nerves, said a source, adding that after Maken’s intervention many ministers and MLAs have stated that they would follow the central leadership’s directions.

MLAs in the Gehlot camp have demanded that a decision on the chief ministerial face should be taken in consultation with the outgoing CM after the party president election on October 19. However, the party leadership wants to be ready in advance, should Gehlot be elected.

A senior Congress leader who did not wish to be identified told Moneycontrol, “The high command had already sensed that Gehlot wants to continue as chief minister of Rajasthan even after getting elected as party president. It is against the party’s rule. Party observers Kharge and Maken were told to have a meeting with legislators to ensure the situation remains contained. But a crisis had already erupted.”

Gehlot and Pilot had already clashed over who would be chief minister soon after the Congress won the state election in 2018. Later, the party leadership picked Gehlot over Pilot, who was made deputy chief minister.

The rift between the two intensified in July 2020, after the younger leader led a rebellion with 19 MLAs but was later removed from the deputy chief ministership and also lost his position as president of the party’s state unit.
Sohil Sehran
first published: Sep 27, 2022 06:21 pm