New Delhi: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's brief decision to contest Congress presidential polls has kick-started a fresh political crisis in the state prompting the leader to withdraw from the race.
Eighty-two MLAs loyal to Gehlot participated in a parallel meeting at a minister's residence in Jaipur instead of joining a meeting of the Congress Legislature Party convened for passing a resolution authorising the Congress chief to appoint a successor to Gehlot, who was to contest the Congress presidential election.
Meanwhile, Congress leader Sachin Pilot on Thursday night met Sonia Gandhi and discussed the crisis in the party's Rajasthan unit, and later said the Congress chief would take "positive decisions" with regard to the state.
Pilot, who spent around an hour at Gandhi's residence where Congress general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal was also present, said he conveyed his sentiments and gave his feedback to the party president.
Pilot's meeting with Gandhi comes days after an open rebellion by Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's loyalists over a possible leadership change in the state.
"I met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. She listened to me calmly. The events in Rajasthan were discussed in detail," Pilot said after the meeting.
Pilot met Gandhi hours after his bete noire Ashok Gehlot met her in the afternoon, following which the Rajasthan chief minister announced that he will opt out of the Congress president's race. Gehlot also said the decision on whether he would remain CM would be taken by party chief Sonia Gandhi.
Priority to win 2023 elections: Pilot
Speaking with reporters outside Gandhi's 10 Janpath residence, Pilot said, "I have conveyed my sentiments, given my feedback to Sonia Gandhi. We all want to win the 2023 assembly elections for which we will have to work together. Our objective is that we ensure the Congress' win in Rajasthan and other states."
"I am confident that in the next 12-13 months we will once again form a Congress government through our hard work," the former Rajasthan deputy chief minister said.
He said that it has been his priority to ensure that the Congress bucks the trend of one term to it and the next to the BJP.
"I am fully confident that by hard work we can form a Congress government again. How our government is repeated is our collective priority and objective. We have discussed our strategy for that in detail with AICC leaders and the Congress president," he said.
Decision on Rajasthan in 2 days
After his half-an-hour meeting with Gandhi, Gehlot accompanied by AICC general secretary (organisation) K C Venugopal told reporters that he apologised to the Congress chief for the developments in Rajasthan where some MLAs loyal to him held a parallel meeting and set some conditions to the party high command.
Gehlot also announced that he will not contest the Congress presidential polls after taking moral responsibility for the political crisis in his state.
"I have decided that I will not contest the Congress president's election as I take moral responsibility for the events that took place on Sunday," he said.
The three-time Rajasthan chief minister described himself as a disciplined soldier of the party and expressed his sadness over the turn of events in the state.
"In the last 50 years, I have worked as a loyal Congress soldier from the time of Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and Sonia ji, be it becoming a central minister or state unit chief, general secretary or CM for the third time, I cannot forget that. The events that happened (on Sunday) has shaken all of us. Only I know how hurt I am because a message went that I want to remain CM," Gehlot said.
"I have apologised to Sonia ji because a simple resolution, which is our tradition and which we always pass, a situation emerged that it could not be passed. I, as a CLP leader, whatever the reasons, could not get the resolution passed," he said.
Soon after, Venugopal said outside Gandhi's 10, Janpath residence that the Congress president would take a decision on who would be the chief minister of Rajasthan in a day or two. On the presidential election, he said things would become clear by Friday afternoon when the nomination process would end.
Venugopal later issued an advisory saying the party is noticing statements of Congress leaders in Rajasthan regarding the Party's internal matters and against other leaders.
In an advisory, Venugopal said all Congress leaders at any level should refrain from making public statements against other leaders or about the party's internal matters.
(With PTI inputs.)