Veteran Congress leader and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath is likely to mediate in the crisis in Rajasthan and met party chief Sonia Gandhi in Delhi this evening, sources told NDTV. But the veteran leader -- seen as one of the contenders for the party chief's post in which Ashok Gehlot is a front-runner -- brushed off speculation about him replacing the Rajasthan Chief Minister in the race.
"I have no interest in (Congress) President post. I'm only here for Navratri wishes," Mr Nath was quoted as saying after the meeting by news agency ANI. He maintained silence even on the issue of Rajasthan, thought to be the key agenda of the meeting. Mr Nath had shown interest in mediating and had sought the meeting with Mrs Gandhi, sources had said.
The Gandhis are said to be upset with Mr Gehlot over the Rajasthan rebellion and the 71-year-old is considered to have "humiliated" the Congress.
Ninety-two MLAs in Rajasthan threatened to resign yesterday, saying they want Ashok Gehlot -- front-runner for the post of the Congress national president -- to retain the post of the Chief Minister. The possibility was negated by Rahul Gandhi, who said the party will stick to the "One man one post" rule.
The MLAs want to keep Mr Gehlot's arch-rival Sachin Pilot and his 21 loyalist legislators out of the top job.
Ahead of the legislature party meet yesterday, Team Gehlot had met at the home of MLA Shanti Dhariwal and passed a resolution that a Chief Minister should be chosen only from the pool of 102 legislators who stood by the government when Sachin Pilot brought it to the brink of collapse in 2020 with his rebellion.
Central observers Mallikarjuna Kharge and Ajay Maken, who were tasked with resolving the crisis with one-on-one talks with the MLAs, returned to Delhi today, unable to meet any of the dissenters. In a blatant show of rebellion, all of them have refused to talk to the Central leaders and most have gone home to the districts for Navratras.
The MLAs say they will meet the Central leaders in groups and the question of Chief Ministership should be settled after the party's internal election.
Regarding the MLAs' demand, Ajay Maken said, "It would be conflict of interest as the resolution would be passed when Ashok Gehlot may already be party chief. So, he empowers himself to decide on his own successor in Rajasthan".
But the point may soon be moot, with sources saying the Gandhis are hugely upset with Ashok Gehlot. Many in the party contend that he has "humiliated" the Congress and should be dropped from the race for the party chief's post.
Mr Nath had faced a similar storm two years ago which led to the collapse of his government in Madhya Pradesh. Jyotiraditya Scindia -- one of the top leaders of the party in the state -- who was hoping for the top job after the elections, joined the BJP with 22 MLAs, pulling down the government in the process.
A similar script has played out in Punjab. The Congress lost the state to Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party in the assembly elections shortly after Amarinder Singh quit the party, humiliated and forced to step down from the post of Chief Minister following a face-off with Navjot Sidhu.