Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot has bowed out of the race for the post of Congress president. He said this after meeting the party's interim president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday. "I won't contest these elections in this atmosphere, with moral responsibility," Gehlot told the media after the meeting.
Gehlot's candidature for party president's role ran into trouble after the MLAs loyal to him in Rajasthan disagreed with his decision to quit as chief minister and make way for his deputy Sachin Pilot in case he secures the position in the Congress party. Gehlot was scheduled to file his nomination papers on September 28.
"Whatever happened two days ago shocked us. It gave a message that all of it happened as I wanted to be CM. I apologised to Sonia Gandhi," Gehlot said on Thursday.
Here's all you need to know about the Rajasthan political crisis that led to Gehlot stepping out of the Congress chief race:
What happened in the past few days?
The trouble started on Sunday, September 25, when at least 90 MLAs skipped the Congress Legislature Party (CLP) meeting and instead met at the residence of cabinet minister Shanti Dhariwal. A day before, Gehlot had hinted at quitting as Rajasthan chief minister and giving chance to the "younger generation" in case he became the party chief.
Gehlot loyalists did not agree with him since he hinted at making Pilot his successor and threatened to resign en mass.
This ruffled the feathers in Congress and senior party leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken were tasked to resolve the issues in Rajasthan.
Who are the frontrunners for Congress chief race?
After Gehlot's candidature ran into trouble due to the crisis in Rajasthan, senior leader Digvijaya Singh's name as one of the candidates for the polls started doing rounds. He collected the nomination forms On Thursday.
Singh later party leader met Shashi Tharoor who is also in the Congress presidential race. "I welcome his candidacy for Congress Presidency. We both agreed that ours is not a battle b/w rivals but a friendly contest among colleagues. All we want is that whoever prevails, Cong will win! (sic)," Tharoor tweeted.
Earlier, Rahul Gandhi had ruled out the possibility of a member of the Gandhi family running for the post. He quit the post after the poll debacle in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Sonia Gandhi has been serving as the interim chief of the party since then.
Why did Rajasthan MLAs create uproar?
Congress MLAs loyal to Gehlot seemed to disagree with his decision to make way for Pilot citing the deputy chief minister's attempted coup of 2020. When Gehlot made his remarks last week about the younger generation replacing him, it was perceived that it would be Pilot who is another prominent face of the Congress in Rajasthan.
He was one of the front runners for the chief minister's post after the 2018 state elections. The Gehlot loyalists were demanding that the new chief minister of the state should be from the Gehlot camp.
Rajasthan minister S Garg on Sunday had said that while everyone would abide by the party's decision, the party should also consider how the BJP had conspired to "topple the government".
"Everyone will accept whatever Congress high-command decides, but they should remember how 2 years ago there was a conspiracy in alliance with BJP to topple state government. They should keep in mind people who think along the lines of party ideology and keep unity," Garg said while referring to Pilot's attempt to rebel against the party in 2020.
Upset over the decision, the MLAs questioned Gehlot for making a decision without consulting them. "All the MLAs are angry and are resigning. We are going to the speaker for that. MLAs are upset that how can CM Ashok Gehlot take a decision without consulting them," ANI quoted cabinet minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas as saying.
Some members had also suggested that Gehlot should continue as the chief minister even if he becomes the party chief. " Our opinion is that Ashok Gehlot should continue as CM. He can handle both responsibilities," Rajasthan minister Meghwal told ANI.
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