Amid an intensifying power struggle between Ashok Gehlot and his former deputy Sachin Pilot for the post of Rajasthan Chief Minister, a resolution that the incumbent CM’s camp is pushing to be accepted has left the central leadership of the Congress fuming. The party’s Rajasthan in-charge, Ajay Maken, termed the demand as downright “wrong” and a clear case of “conflict of interest” while coming down heavily on the Gehlot camp.
The Congress has been pushed into an unrelenting crisis after the party leadership hinted that it would replace Gehlot with Pilot as the Rajasthan CM following the former’s nomination for Congress president elections. The Gandhis have backed Gehlot’s candidature and his victory, if he chooses to contest the Congress presidential election, almost certain, there is a visible pushback from the party veteran who seems unyielding to transfer power in the hands of Pilot, whose rebellion almost brought his government to the brink of collapse two years ago.
In a clear indication of Gehlot’s resistance against what MLAs loyal to him have termed as a “unilateral” decision, the legislators raised three demands — the central among them being a conditional resolution that while a decision on who will be Rajasthan CM can be left to the Congress president, the decision only be arrived at after October 19. Notably, the process to elect a new Congress president is also set to conclude by the same date, and Gehlot, with the backing from the Gandhis, is almost certain to win the election.
Speaking to reports in Jaipur, Maken came down heavily on the Gehlot camp for raising such an unreasonable demand. “…if Ashok Gehlot ji moves a resolution that everything is being left to the Congress president…and when he becomes the Congress president after October 19, then he is empowering himself on his own resolution – there can’t be a bigger conflict of interest than this, so (we asked them) you don’t do this,” Maken said, adding that the MLAs insisted that the central leadership publicly convey this and make it a part of the resolution.
“Resolution is only one line…and it shouldn’t be with conflict of interest that you are moving a resolution today, contesting the elections, and when tomorrow if you become the Congress president you will take a decision on your own resolution. This is a conflict of interest and this is wrong,” Maken added.
Two other demands were raised by Congress MLAs — Shanti Dhariwal, Mahesh Joshi, and Pratap Singh Khachariyawas — when they met Maken and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge in Jaipur Sunday night. These included the condition that the dissident Congress MLAs would only meet the central leaders in groups, contrary to the latter’s wish to meet each of them individually. The second demand was that only one among the 102 MLAs who were loyal and were with Ashok Gehlot should be made the CM.
The MLAs have insisted that all three points raised by them be included in the resolution, a demand that Kharge and he have turned down, Maken said.
“We said that in the Congress history, a resolution has never been with strings or conditions attached…Hence Kharge and I turned them down, saying that this is a conflict of interest. We will meet everyone individually and convey everyone’s emotions to the Congress president,” Maken said.
As many as 90 MLAs loyal to Gehlot submitted their resignations to Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C P Joshi Sunday evening over the Congress high command’s ‘unilateral’ decision to hand over the chief ministership to Sachin Pilot without consulting them. The MLAs also called a parallel meeting while a CLP meeting was already planned, an act the central leadership has seen as “prima facie indiscipline.”