The question Of the next Rajasthan Chief Minister has turned into a full-blown crisis for the Congress. Over 90 MLAs of the Ashok Gehlot camp are in protest mode and had a meeting with the Speaker, claiming they want to resign.
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Told by reporters that a mass resignation will bring down the government, an MLA said, "We want Ashok Gehlot as the chief minister", indicating that they are expecting concessions from the central leadership on the "one man one post" issue. The alternative is a Gehlot loyalist in the top post instead of the chief minister's arch-rival Sachin Pilot, said to be the central leaders' choice.
The MLA's meeting with the Speaker, CP Joshi, lasted until midnight and will resume later. They also had a round of meeting with the central observers -- Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress's Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken -- and Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot.
Sources said the party high command is extremely upset with the rebellion. Party chief Sonia Gandhi has tasked the central leaders with resolving the issue and they will have one-on-one meetings with the MLAs. Later, a one-line resolution will be passed and the party president will be authorised to name the new chief minister, sources said.
While the party high command wants the issue to be resolved as soon as possible, a section of the MLAs do not wish the legislature party meet to happen before a new party president is elected, sources said.
Sources also said Mr Gehlot had a telephonic conversation with central leader KC Venugopal about the evolving situation, where he said, "nothing is in my hands".
The 90-plus Ashok Gehlot loyalists had raised the issue of Sachin pilot's rebellion in 2020 at a meeting earlier this evening and said the chief minister must be from among those who supported the government at the time.
The pushback from Gehlot loyalists came after Rahul Gandhi insisted that the "one man one post" maxim be followed, which would force Mr Gehlot to resign his post as the chief minister. He is the front-runner for the post of the party's national president, the election for which is due on October 17.
The legislature party meeting, which was scheduled for 7 pm in presence of central leaders, was not held. On his return to Jaipur from Jaisalmer, Mr Gehlot went into a huddle with Mr Kharge and Mr Maken. Later, he met Mr Pilot and 21 MLAs supporting him.
Mr Gehlot had been extremely reluctant to leave the top job in Rajasthan to stop the elevation of arch-rival Sachin Pilot to the post. Sources said in case he failed to hold onto the post, he would prefer a loyalist to succeed him. Earlier today, Mr Gehlot said, "all congressmen unanimously keep faith on the congress president, and today also, you will get a glimpse of it".
Mr Pilot, credited by many with being the architect of victory in the last assembly election, was seen as a contender for the top job but was persuaded by Rahul Gandhi to act as Mr Gehlot's deputy. In 2020, he rebelled, camping out in Delhi for more than a month with 18 supporters. The stand-off was resolved with intervention of Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.