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PoliticsIndiaAshok Gehlot works backstage in last-ditch effort before presidential poll in INC

Ashok Gehlot works backstage in last-ditch effort before presidential poll in INC

With the process of electing a new Indian National Congress president about to begin, as the party has issued the notification of the polls, the frontrunner in speculators' imagination, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, is seemingly unwilling to accept the dynasty's diktat to contest the poll.

Ashok Gehlot is keen to retain the Rajasthan chief minister's post, as he knows too well that despite his elevation to the top post in the party would make him no better than a figurehead while Rahul Gandhi’s coterie will continue to run the show. It's the coterie that as many as 23 senior leaders of the party demanding elections in the organisation in a of exasperation. Their letter to the party's interim president (now the president but hardly in her elements seen during the prime of her political career) Sonia Gandhi led to their marginalisation. They were branded as "G 23" and never again kept in the loop of decision-making.

While the position of a chief minister entails wielding a lot of executive power, the thought that the post would go to archrival Sachin Pilot bothers him too. So, he said he was efficient enough to do justice to both the posts, much as both are full-time jobs. Gehlot claimed that the one-person-one-post rule was for nominated posts and not elected ones. "One person can remain a minister and also be elected Congress president. I will do anything that benefits the party, one post, two posts or three posts, I won't back down," he said before meeting Rahul Gandhi today.

But Rahul Gandhi disagreed. He sent a clear message to Ashok Gehlot that the latter could not hope to remain Rajasthan chief minister if he were to be elected as the party president. “What we decided at Udaipur (Chintan Shivir)… that is a commitment of the Congress party (sic). So I expect that commitment will be maintained,” Rahul said, responding to a question on the one-person, one-post rule that the party had decided to implement at its conclave in May. His clear signal, at a press conference in Kochi, came hours before a disconcerted Ashok Gehlot landed in to meet him.

In May this year, during the party’s Chintan Shivir, the INC adopted the Udaipur Declaration and one of the “organisational reforms” to be implemented as per this declaration was the principle of one person, one post.

While the ‘one man, one post’ rule never applied as Sachin Pilot was both deputy CM and Congress president, the same was the case with Kamal Nath, all this changed with the Udaipur resolution when it was decided that it has to be only one man for one post. This rule, if applied, adds to the woes of Ashok Gehlot.

But before the Rajasthan chief minister could meet Rahul Gandhi today, Sachin Pilot had spent the whole of yesterday with the dynast, walking with the latter on his "Bharat Jodo Yatra" in Kerala. Sachin Pilot flew out this morning, hours before Ashok Gehlot's arrival. The chief minister of Rajasthan said he would try "one last time" to persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as the INC president before filing his papers on Monday for the 17 October election.

“I am here and I will talk to Rahul Gandhi to become Congress president. I am here to request him for the last time because then the formalities will start. There is no problem with two posts. Those who become congress president had to look after the entire country. To justify its good to be on one post,” Ashok Gehlot said.

Before going all the way to Kochi, Ashok Gehlot had made another manoeuvre. He said whether he should remain the chief minister must be a decision to the INC MLAs in Rajasthan, knowing that they preferred him to Sachin Pilot.

Meanwhile, senior INC leader said after his meeting with Sonia Gandhi, "It (the one-man-one-post rule) will be applicable depending on who contests and wins." But Rahul Gandhi's stern message no room for doubt.

Thereafter, the Rajasthan chief minister issued another statement, singing a different tune this time. "It is important that the Congress chief focuses on taking care of the entire country," he said.

In the meantime, Ashok Gehlot had done his bit to manage the party workers backstage. More than a dozen Pradesh Congress committees passed resolutions, appealing to Rahul Gandhi to take up the position of party chief. However, it is almost clear that the Gandhi scion will sit out and make a loyalist occupy the post he once did.

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