Ashok Gehlot In Delhi To Meet Sonia Gandhi, Key Aide Says He Won't Resign

Over 90 MLAs had on Sunday threatened mass resignation, objecting to Sachin Pilot stepping into Ashok Gehlot's shoes.

Ashok Gehlot's Delhi visit comes a day after Congress issued notice to three of his loyalists. (File)

New Delhi:

Ashok Gehlot's meeting with Sonia Gandhi was deferred by a day amid suspense over whether he will run for Congress president. The meeting was initially scheduled for this evening but he kept delaying his travel plans as he consulted his closest aides, who strongly indicated that he may not give up his Rajasthan role anytime soon.

He reached Delhi late this evening. The  meet with the Congress president is scheduled for tomorrow.

"We work under the Congress president. Decisions will be taken as per that in the time to come. Media should recognise the issues of the country. Authors, journalists are being called anti-nationals and jailed. We worry for them and Rahul Gandhi is on Yatra for them," Mr Gehlot told reporters after reaching Delhi.

Reports said there is a new candidate for Congress president - Digvijaya Singh. So far, he is up against Shashi Tharoor, the first to declare that he will contest. Ashok Gehlot, once the front runner, kept everyone guessing on his play just two days before nominations close.

"The Congress will work under Ashok Gehlot's leadership. We did not discuss his resignation. He is not resigning today, he will not resign in future," said state minister Pratap Singh Kachariyawas.

Another minister, Vishvendra Singh, said: "Mr Gehlot will complete his five years in Rajasthan."

Since the Congress doesn't allow anyone two posts, many saw these comments as a hint that Mr Gehlot does not want to run for party president.

Rahul Gandhi last week made it clear that Mr Gehlot cannot play a double role, in line with the Congress's "one person, one post" policy. 

Mr Gehlot, with much reluctance, agreed to run for party president, but his refusal to quit as Rajasthan Chief Minister is at the core of the current crisis in the Congress. 

On Sunday, over 90 MLAs loyal to Mr Gehlot threatened mass resignation over reports that if he moved on to a national role, his replacement in Rajasthan would be his bitter rival Sachin Pilot. 

In open defiance of the Gandhis, the MLAs laid out conditions that included choosing a new Chief Minister only after the Congress president election. If Mr Gehlot becomes Congress chief, that will constitute conflict of interest as he will have empowered himself to pick his own successor in Rajasthan.

The rebellion deeply embarrassed the Congress in the middle of Rahul Gandhi's "Bharat Jodo Yatra". The Gandhis were said to be furious, and there was strong speculation that Mr Gehlot is out of the race for party chief.

But top party sources said Mr Gehlot is "still in contention for the post of Congress president and not ruled out".

Last evening, Congress leaders Ambika Soni and Anand Sharma, after a meeting with Sonia Gandhi, spoke with the Chief Minister to "resolve the crisis that has been created".

Mr Gehlot denied any part in the revolt, citing his visit to a shrine near the India-Pakistan border that morning where there was no phone reception. "Nothing is in my hands. The MLAs are angry," he told the central leadership. 

Mr Gehlot also apologised but the Congress leadership was said to have taken a "serious view" of indiscipline by one of its senior most leaders.

Sachin Pilot, whose supporters are far outnumbered by Mr Gehlot's, is in Delhi.

The Congress is prepping for its first non-Gandhi president after more than two decades. All three Gandhis will stay out of the October 17 election. So far, Shashi Tharoor has called for nomination papers. There are reports that Digvijaya Singh may join the contest.

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