Rajasthan political drama: Cong observers want action against 3 Gehlot loyalists

Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: Congress observers for Rajasthan on Tuesday recommended disciplinary action against three key loyalists of Ashok Gehlot but did not seek any action against the chief minister, as the party scampered to resolve the crisis that has cast a shadow on the election of the party president.

Action has been sought against Cabinet Minister Shanti Dhariwal, who had figured prominently in the rebellion by the party legislators, Minister and Congress Chief Whip in the Assembly Mahesh Joshi, and MLA Dharmendra Rathore.

The observers - Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken - submitted their report to party chief Sonia Gandhi Tuesday evening, flagging "gross indiscipline" on the part of leaders who organised a parallel meet of MLAs instead of joining a Congress Legislature Party meeting.

After the Rajasthan developments, Congress president Sonia Gandhi initiated discussions with senior party leaders from across the country as any solution to the crisis in Rajasthan and the decision on the official presidential candidate of the party remained elusive.

Several names have cropped up for the probable presidential candidate including Kharge, A K Antony, Kamal Nath, Digvijaya Singh, Ambika Soni and Pawan Kumar Bansal, though most of them ruled themselves out of the race.

The name of Ashok Gehlot for the top party post is, however, not completely ruled out yet, according to informed sources.

Senior Congress leaders Mukul Wasnik, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ashok Gehlot and Bhupesh Baghel address a press conference at AICC headquarters, in New Delhi, Wednesday, June 15, 2022. Photo: PTI/Shahbaz Khan

Among various senior leaders, Gandhi is learnt to have called veteran Congress leaders A K Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde for consultations here. There is also a likelihood that fresh observers may be sent to Rajasthan and Shinde may be one of them.

Gandhi is considering resolving the matter after consultations with top party leaders, who are keeping their fingers crossed on the situation.

Gehlot explained position to Sonia, say sources

After the developments in Jaipur, sources said Gehlot has reached out to Sonia Gandhi and is learnt to have explained his position, while his arch-rival Sachin Pilot rushed to Delhi ahead of any decision on Rajasthan.

Gehlot is learnt to have told Gandhi that he was not behind the parallel meet of MLAs and it was organised without his knowledge.

He is also understood to have told Sonia Gandhi that he would abide by any decision taken by her and the party, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the Rajasthan chief minister also held a closed-door meeting with party MLAs in Jaipur and is learnt to have apprised them of the latest developments.

Sonia Gandhi. Photo: IANS

The two observers Kharge and Maken had to return from Jaipur on Monday without holding the CLP meeting as a large group of MLAs considered loyal to Chief Minister Gehlot refused to join it and put forth certain conditions for the selection of Gehlot's successor.

The sources said the report has not sought any action against Gehlot even as it recommended action against three of his loyalists. However, it has been pointed out that the parallel meeting of MLAs was held with Gehlot's knowledge.

The Congress observers' report pointed to the "gross indiscipline" on the part of the Rajasthan leaders who did not allow the CLP meeting to take place.

The report came a day after the observers briefed Sonia Gandhi on the Rajasthan developments and she had asked them to submit a written report.

Suspense over Gehlot's fate in contesting AICC poll

Gehlot was considered as the frontrunner for the post of Congress president and had the blessings of Sonia Gandhi. The latest developments have marred his prospects for the top party position, though he is yet not out of the race.

Amid suspense over Gehlot's fate, the party's central election authority chairman Madhusudan Mistry on Tuesday said AICC treasurer Pawan Kumar Bansal has got nomination forms collected but they might be for someone else.

He also said that Shashi Tharoor may file his nomination papers for the Congress chief's election on September 30 and his representative has got two more nomination forms today.

Mistry also said he had no information on whether Gehlot was going to file his nomination papers and no one had communicated with him over this. The remark comes amid speculation that the Rajasthan chief minister may be dropped as a candidate for the Congress president post.

Speaking to reporters, Mistry said he met party chief Sonia Gandhi at her 10 Janpath residence and handed over her QR-coded identity card for the party president's election.

He along with the chairman of the AICC Data Analytics department, Praveen Chakravarty, later met former prime minister Manmohan Singh and handed over the identity card to him.

He would meet Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra separately to hand over cards to them.

Mistry also briefed Gandhi about how many people have collected the nomination forms and about the delegates.

He said Bansal got the nomination forms collected from his office on Monday and it may be "as a supporter" of someone.

Bansal, however, later said he was "not in the race for party president's post".

Mistry said elections would be held on time as per the schedule.

According to a notification issued by the party, the process for filing nominations for the election will be held from September 24 to 30. The date for scrutiny of the nomination papers is October 1, while the last date for withdrawal of nominations is October 8.

The final list of candidates will be published at 5 pm on October 8.

The polling, if needed, will be held on October 17. The counting of votes will be taken up on October 19 and the results will be declared the same day.

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