Jaipur: In a veiled attack on party leader Sachin Pilot, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot on Sunday said it was important to know why there was resentment among MLAs over the name of a new chief minister in the state.
Several MLAs loyal to Gehlot, who was seen as the frontrunner for the post of the Congress national president, had last week submitted resignation letters over a possible move to appoint Pilot as the next chief minister.
Gehlot later announced that he will not contest the Congress presidential polls as he took moral responsibility for the political crisis in his state.
Referring to the crisis, he said 80-90 per cent MLAs switch sides when a new chief minister is going to be appointed but this did not happen in Rajasthan.
"When a chief minister is changed, 80-90 percent (MLAs) leave him and switch sides. They turn to the new candidate. I too don't consider it wrong. But it was a new case in Rajasthan where the MLAs got agitated just in the name of the new chief minister," Gehlot said without naming Pilot.
"I was in Jaisalmer. I could not guess but the MLAs sensed who was going to be the new chief minister," he told reporters after paying tributes to Mahatma Gandhi at the secretariat here.
When asked about the chances of the chief minister being changed now, Gehlot reiterated that it is for the party high command to decide.
"I am doing my work and it is for the party high command to take a decision," he said.
The veteran Congressman on Saturday asked the people to send suggestions about the next budget directly to him, hinting that he was there to stay.
He also declared that he cannot remain away from the people of Rajasthan "till his last breath" and that the Congress government will complete its five years.
The chief minister said his objective is to bring the Congress government back to power in Rajasthan after the next polls, which is important for the revival of the party at the national level.
"I had already conveyed to madam (Sonia Gandhi) and Ajay Maken in August that it is not necessary that I should be the chief minister. I told them that I am ready to withdraw. I said I will support and campaign because it should be our aim to revive the Congress party," he said.
On Sunday, advertisements of Invest Rajasthan, going to be held in Jaipur on October 7 and 8, with the chief minister's message appeared on front pages on newspapers, indicating Gehlot's confidence that he was going to continue as the chief minister.
Meanwhile, Gehlot's advisor and independent MLA Sanyam Lodha indirectly expressed apprehension about the possibility of the government completing the tenure.
A video clip of Lodha speaking at a Gandhi Jayanti programme in Sirohi surfaced on social media in which he is seen talking about completing a local project if the government continued.
"I hope that if the government continues, we will start that work in January," he said.
Gehlot also said that the observer is a big post, and anyone acting as an observer should act on behalf of the party high command and should reflect their aura.
Observers come on behalf of the party high command. Why such circumstances were developed here, a research should be done, he said referring to the rebellion by the MLAs.
Gehlot said no one is perfect and he, too, learns everyday and corrects himself whenever needed.
He asserted that he cannot ditch the 102 MLAs who had saved his government during the political crisis in 2020 and, therefore, he apologised to Sonia Gandhi.
Targeting the MLAs who had revolted against him in 2020, he said they were hand-in-glove with the BJP.
"Some of our MLAs met Amit Shah, Dharmendra Pradhan and other BJP leaders. Amit Shah was offering sweets to our MLAs. So, how can I forget those 102 MLAs who saved the Congress government," he said without naming anyone.
"I have got public support whenever needed, be it during the political crisis or during corona. How can I stay away from them," he asked.
Hours before the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting that was to be convened at the chief minister's residence last Sunday, MLAs loyal to Gehlot had held a parallel meeting at the residence of parliamentary affairs minister Shanti Dhariwal against any move of the party to make Pilot the new chief minister after Gehlot resigned in order to contest the Congress president elections.
They skipped the CLP meeting and went to speaker CP Joshi's residence and submitted their resignation. Their demand was to choose someone as the new chief minister from the 102 MLAs who supported Gehlot during the political crisis in July 2020 which happened due to rebellion of the then deputy chief minister and the 18 other Congress MLAs against Gehlot's leadership.
AICC general secretary in-charge for Rajasthan Ajay Maken and then leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who is now contesting the Congress president elections, were sent by the party high command as observers to Rajasthan to hold the CLP meeting.