On the sidelines of the intriguing battle being set up for the post of Congress president, a quiet storm is brewing in Rajasthan with Sachin Pilot vying for the Rajasthan Chief Minister’s post in the event of Ashok Gehlot running for party president. With the Congress likely to announce a notification for the presidential elections after over two decades as early as Thursday, the battlelines within the party have already been drawn.
While Gehlot is set to meet Rahul Gandhi in Kerala in a last-ditch attempt to convince the former Congress president to run for the elections instead, tough decisions lie ahead of the Gandhis on Rajasthan, in case Rahul stands firm on his decision of not contesting for the top party post.
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Saying that he is willing to bend his will to the party’s directives, Pilot on Wednesday maintained a stoic stance when asked about Gehlot’s intention of not stepping down as the Rajasthan Chief Minister in the event of Gehlot becoming the party president. “From the media reports I’ve seen, I would like to say for now that we want the Congress party to win Rajasthan state elections again,” Pilot told The Indian Express.
Stating that he wouldn’t like to “speculate” on the party’s presidential contest, Pilot told IE, “This election process will strengthen the party for sure. Who will fight and who will be the contestants is yet to be seen.”
Two years back, Gehlot’s position as the Chief Minister was challenged when the internal rivalry between him and his then deputy Pilot came out in the open. Pilot revolted with 18 other party MLAs from the state claiming that he and other party workers were not treated with respect. Gehlot resorted to name-calling, referring to Pilot as ‘nakara, nikamma’ (useless, worthless).
While the Congress managed to quell the revolt then, the present day situation is different in the wake of other internal rifts in Punjab and Goa this year, which has reduced the party to a minority in both states. In such an event, how the Gandhis manage to walk the tightrope will only be revealed in the coming days leading up to the October 17 Congress presidential polls.
For now, Gehlot seems firm on not ceding ground to his bete noire in any event. When asked about his future plans as Chief Minister in case he gets elected as the Congress president, Gehlot on Wednesday told reporters, “Time will tell whether I remain (CM) or not. I would like to stay where the party benefits from me, I will not back down.”