This Article is From Sep 20, 2022

Ashok Gehlot For Congress President? Terms And Conditions Apply

Sources close to Ashok Gehlot say he may file his papers on Monday to run for the October 17 election, but he is still hoping to persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as chief.

Sources say Rahul Gandhi is Ashok Gehlot's first choice for the top party post (File)

New Delhi:

The Congress will launch its mega election for a new party president, the first in over 20 years, on Thursday and Shashi Tharoor is set to run after a no-objection from Sonia Gandhi. Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, is tipped to be his rival in the race, but he is reportedly not ready.

Ashok Gehlot has reportedly agreed, rather reluctantly, to file his nomination papers next Monday for the October 17 election.

The Congress veteran, who has weathered many a threat including an alleged BJP "Operation Lotus" and rebellion on his watch, has repeatedly been asked to take charge by Sonia Gandhi, who has been interim chief since her son Rahul quit in 2019 following the party's election defeat.

But the 71-year-old is concerned about ceding Rajasthan to his rival Sachin Pilot, sources say. He is believed to have told his bosses that he would like to stay on as Chief Minister for some time, even after becoming Congress president.

If he has to move to national politics, say sources, he wants a loyalist to rule as his proxy in Rajasthan. If not, then he wants to keep both roles by taking over as working president of the Congress with Sonia Gandhi as full-time chief.

These conditions are not good news for Sachin Pilot, who may have hoped that Mr Gehlot's new role will catapult him to the Chief Minister's post. He was in Delhi today, on his way to Rahul Gandhi's "Bharat Jodo Yatra" in Kerala. His arrival in the capital had fueled speculation that he may be closer to getting what he has wanted for years.

A section in the Congress believes that Sachin Pilot should be given a shot at being Chief Minister before the election. But it all hinges on Mr Gehlot.

Before filing his nomination papers, Mr Gehlot hopes this week to try and persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as chief. Rahul Gandhi is the Chief Minister's "first choice" for the post, the sources say.

Rahul Gandhi's top point person KC Venugopal has been summoned to Delhi, in the middle of the yatra, to help resolve what could be a brewing crisis.

The Congress will accept nominations till September 30. The elections for Congress president, if needed (if there are more than one candidate), will be held on October 17. The results will be declared on October 19.