Congress fumes at rebellious Rajasthan MLAs
DECCAN CHRONICLE | Ashhar Khan and Rabindra Nath Choudhury
New Delhi/Raipur: After the rebellion in the ranks of the Rajasthan Congress on Sunday night, the two central observers, Mallikarjun Kharge and Ajay Maken, headed back to Delhi on Monday to apprise Congress president Sonia Gandhi of these developments. The MLAs on Sunday, instead of attending the legislature party meeting which was to be attended by the central observers, went to Rajasthan Assembly Speaker C.P. Joshi to hand in their resignations. They were miffed over the proposed resolution to be passed at the CLP meeting authorising the Congress president to choose the next leader.
After meeting Mrs Gandhi on Monday evening, Congress observer and AICC’s Rajasthan in-charge Ajay Maken said that the MLAs who are loyal to Ashok Gehlot want the next chief minister to be chosen from their camp. He said: "We had a detailed meeting with the Congress president. She asked for a detailed report on the entire incident. The meeting was fixed as per the convenience of Gehlot. Sonia ji told us very clearly to speak to the MLAs on a one-on- one basis and to submit the report. It was decided that decision will be taken in Delhi."
Mr Maken further added: "The MLAs demanded a resolution should be passed that whoever is the next Congress president should decide the next CM. This is a clear case of conflict of interest. They wanted us to speak to the MLAs in group. We never speak to MLAs in a group, we speak individually. They also wanted the next CM to be from the Gehlot camp. When the party fixes an MLAs’ meet, if a parallel meet is organized, then that attracts disciplinary action. The same had been told to Sonia ji," The observers will submit a written report.
In Jaipur, meanwhile, Mr Ashok Gehlot met Mr Kharge in a bid to explain his position and the situation prevailing in the state. The Gehlot loyalist MLAs continued to put pressure on the high command, with state minister Pratap Singh Khachariyawas saying: "ED, CBI coming to Rajasthan. Congress workers will have to fight on the roads. Every MLA & worker of Congress in united to save govt, we can spill blood on roads… But if MLAs want to save govt against BJP’s conspiracy, then they should be heard."
In a bid to resolve the Rajasthan crisis, Mrs Gandhi also called former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath to New Delhi. This is not the first time that the Congress has roped in Mr Kamal Nath, a former Union minister who has been a Lok Sabha MP for nine terms, to be a troubleshooter. He was also sent to Maharashtra to save the tripartite Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government of the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress following a rebellion within the Shiv Sena. Party leaders say the former MP CM has the political bandwidth and heft to even handle MLAs, something which Mr Maken and Mr Kharge lacked. In the next few days, he may also go to Jaipur or meet the leaders from Rajasthan in New Delhi. Mr Kamal Nath enjoys a close personal bond with Mr Gehlot and has also worked with the late Rajesh Pilot, the father of Mr Sachin Pilot.
In Raipur, a Congress leader close to Kamal Nath told this newspaper that the former CM caught the flight to New Delhi from Bhopal at 11.30 am, immediately after receiving a call from the party high command. Sources said the party may give Mr Kamal Nath the responsibility of defusing the crisis in the Rajasthan Congress caused by the legislature party rebellion there.
"Mr Nath may be assigned the task of brokering peace between Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot and his arch-rival Sachin Pilot to defuse the crisis, which threatens to cast a shadow over the October 17 Congress presidential polls", a Congress leader said.
He said that Mr Nath is a veteran leader and commands respect from senior leaders, including Mr Gehlot. Besides, the party high command had deployed him on many such occasions in the past.
"The party high command may also look for an alternative to Mr Gehlot to project as its favourite in the Congress presidential polls after the Rajasthan fiasco, and Mr Nath fits the bill", he said.
However, Mr Kamal Nath has already made it clear to the high command that he would like to lead the 2023 Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh and is not keen to shift to a national role at this juncture.