Ashok Gehlot heads to Delhi: Will Sonia Gandhi forgive her go-to man for Rajasthan revolt?

Until yesterday, Ashok Gehlot was out of the race for the Congress chief’s post. Today, he heads to New Delhi for a meeting with Sonia Gandhi after he was exonerated from the report on the rebellion in Rajasthan. Will he survive the crisis for which his loyalist MLAs are blamed?

FP Explainers September 28, 2022 12:31:10 IST
Ashok Gehlot heads to Delhi: Will Sonia Gandhi forgive her go-to man for Rajasthan revolt?

Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot heads to New Delhi to meet with Sonia Gandhi after a rebellion by Rajasthan MLAs. File photo/PTI

The Congress party is trying to put its house in order after the revolt in Rajasthan ahead of the 17 October presidential polls. The high command was left embarrassed by the defiance of its MLAs even as the stage was set for Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot’s bid for the Congress presidency.

Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi was reportedly miffed and there was enough indication that Gehlot was out of the race. But now it looks like the 71-year-old Rajasthan leader cannot be ruled out yet, as the party has opened communication lines with him.

It’s a fast-changing situation but we have some answers here:

Who is getting punished for the revolt?

A report about the revolt by more than 90 Rajasthan MLAs, all Gehlot loyalists, against the possibility of Sachin Pilot being elevated to the CM’s post, was sent to Sonia Gandhi.

Gehlot has reportedly been exonerated. Ajay Maken, the AICC in charge of the state, has advised action against three MLAs – chief whip Mahesh Joshi, RTDC chairman Dharmendra Rathore and Gehlot’s confidante Shanti Dhariwal – for skipping an official party meeting and holding a parallel one.

Congress has served a show cause notice to the three leaders for “an act of grave indiscipline” and has sought a response within 10 days, reports NDTV.

Is Gehlot getting a second chance?

During his interaction with party observer Mallikarjun Kharge, Gehlot was apologetic about the rebellion in Rajasthan and said that he had no role to play in it.

Some senior party leaders reached out to Gehlot to smoothen things out on Tuesday. Anand Sharma and Ambika Sonia spoke to the Rajasthan leader after meeting with Sonia Gandhi to “resolve the crisis”. This is an indication that the CM’s name is still being considered for the party’s top post.

Ashok Gehlot, 71, is “still in contention for the post of Congress president and not ruled out”, top party sources told NDTV.

Ashok Gehlot heads to Delhi Will Sonia Gandhi forgive her goto man for Rajasthan revolt

A trusted aide of Sonia Gandhi, Gehlot was the frontrunner for the Congress chief’s post. While the top leadership is upset with him, his name cannot be ruled out of the race. PTI

Does this mean he will continue as CM?

It is unlikely that Gehlot will get both positions as desired. He will have to stick by the party’s “one person one post” reform.

Sources told The Indian Express that the leadership is clear that the Rajasthan CM will have to accede to the wishes of the high command and “can’t expect to have it both ways”.

The party has reportedly told Gehlot that he should leave the call on who will be the CM to Sonia Gandhi.

Gandhi and Gehlot are said to meet on Wednesday in Delhi to solve the ongoing crisis in Rajasthan.
While Gandhi is said to be upset with the Rajasthan veteran, he has remained her trusted aide, playing troubleshooter during the Punjab crisis that ended with the resignation of Amarinder Singh, and the rebellion by the G-23 leaders, calling for sweeping changes in the party.

What about Sachin Pilot?

Former Rajasthan deputy CM and Gehlot’s rival Sachin Pilot arrived in Delhi on Tuesday and there is speculation that he is likely to meet the party high command. However, there is no confirmation about his schedule with sources close to him saying that no meetings have been fixed yet, reports News18.

Pilot has refrained from speaking to the media. It has been in touch with Rajasthan MLAs apart from those supporting him. He rubbished reports about telling the party high command that Gehlot should not be CM.

What are Rajasthan Congress leaders saying?

The divide in Rajasthan Congress has only grown wider. In the Gehlot faction, there is now anger against the senior party leadership.

Rajasthan Congress MLA Shanti Dhariwal, who is among the three leaders named in the report to Gandhi, criticised Maken accusing him of a conspiracy to oust Gehlot.

Dhariwal, a Gehlot loyalist who hosted the meeting of MLAs on Sunday, said that Rajasthan leaders won’t “tolerate traitors being rewarded”. “It was 100% a conspiracy to remove the CM (Ashok Gehlot) and the general secretary in charge (Ajay Maken) was a part of it,” he said.

Another Gehlot loyalist Pratap Kachariyawas said that installing Pilot as the CM would mean handing the state to the BJP. “The Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax department, CBI officials are sitting in Rajasthan. BJP’s game has started,” Kachariyawas said, according to NDTV. “The BJP is again engaged in a conspiracy to topple the Rajasthan government,” he added

Ashok Gehlot heads to Delhi Will Sonia Gandhi forgive her goto man for Rajasthan revolt

The bitter rivalry between Ashok Gehlot and Sachin Pilot has left the Rajasthan Congress divided. PTI

Meanwhile, other legislators are questioning Gehlot’s leadership saying he failed to summon his loyalists to the official Congress meeting. Congress MLA Divya Maderna told The Hindu, “Let’s believe that he (Gehlot) didn’t know about the brewing rebellion. But at 7 pm when he did not find the legislators at his residence where the CLP meet was organised why didn’t he pick up the phone and summon them? This definitely raises a question on his leadership capacity.”

Senior Chhattisgarh minister and Congress leader TS Singh Deo echoed similar views. “How will the person (Ashok Gehlot) who is unable to handle his MLAs, handle the Congress? If MLAs from his state do not listen to him, then how will the party leaders obey him as Congress president?”

With inputs from agencies

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