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Congress Presidential Poll Updates: 'Gandhis Won't Contest, I Will', Gehlot Clears the Air on Party Chief Bid, Says Nomination Date to be Decided Soon

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Congress Presidential Poll Updates: Amid much confusion over whether Ashok Gehlot, one of the frontrunners for the Congress President post, would step aside as Rajasthan Chief Minister if assuming the party leadership, a positive signal has come from the leader.

Gehlot, who had declared his intention to continue as Rajasthan chief minister even if elected as Congress president, backed down after Rahul Gandhi stated that the new party chief would have to follow the “one man, one vote” principle. According to a report by the Times of India, Rahul said, “What we decided in Udaipur is a commitment of the Congress. So I expect that the commitment will be maintained.” Immediately afterwards, Gehlot termed Rahul’s position “correct”, saying that no Congress president has ever been a chief minister.

Meanwhile, Sachin Pilot is seeing support from the Rajasthan leadership to become the replacement of Gehlot in Rajasthan. The leader is expected to stay in Delhi and meet the party brass today, said sources.

Latest developments on the issue:

• Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Friday said Rahul Gandhi was a natural leader and did not need a post. In a reference to the role of the RSS in the BJP, Chowdhury told news agency ANI that the saffron party’s president was chosen in Nagpur (the headquarters of the RSS is located in Nagpur). He said the BJP should stop trying to belittle the Gandhi family as Rahul had refused the presidential post. “Rahul Gandhi said he’ll not be Congress party president. The BJP’s attempt to belittle the Gandhi family should stop now. Congress has democracy and elections will be held for the post of president but did the BJP have an election? Their president is decided in Nagpur,” Chowdhury said, adding, “Rahul Gandhi is a natural leader, he does not need any post.”

• The BJP on Friday claimed the new Congress president will be a “proxy” of the Gandhi family and will be remote-controlled by them “like” former PM “Manmohan Singh was”. BJP national spokesperson Shehzad Poonawalla cited the comment of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, seen as the likely next Congress president, that a call on his replacement will be taken by the party’s interim chief Sonia Gandhi and its in-charge for the state Ajay Maken. “What capacity will she have as she will become a former president? Shouldn’t Congress MLAs decide? If Gandhis will have the remote control then why this sham election,” he said. He noted that Congress leader P Chidambaram had said recently that whoever be the next president, Rahul Gandhi will have a pre-eminent position in the party. “This was a proof that the next president of Congress will be a proxy of the Gandhis and will be remote controlled by Gandhis like Manmohan Singh was by Sonia Gandhi,” he alleged. These statements have made it clear that the ongoing poll process is nothing but an eyewash, Poonawalla claimed.

• A day after Congress leader Gourav Vallabh taunted Shashi Tharoor over his probable AICC president poll bid, the party on Friday urged all its spokespersons and communication department office-bearers to refrain from commenting on any colleague contesting the elections. In the first indicator of leaders taking sides in the upcoming contest for the top post, Vallabh had voiced support for another contender, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, who many believe has the backing of the current leadership. According to sources, AICC general secretary in-charge (communications) Jairam Ramesh, in a message to all spokespersons and office-bearers, said, “I would strongly urge all spokespersons and office-bearers of communications department of AICC to refrain from making any comment of any kind on any colleague of ours contesting the elections for the post of Congress president.” He added, “We all have our individual preferences but our job is to only highlight that the Congress is the only political party to have a democratic and transparent system in place for election to the post of its president.” Ramesh further said, “A person wanting to contest needs no nod from anybody to do so except from 10 PCC delegates for filing nomination form. The election authority ensures free and fair elections. Spokespersons have to ensure that elections are seen to be free and fair.” Vallabh is also a party spokesperson but he asserted his comments were as a Congress worker and not spokesperson.

• Haryana Congress leader Bhupinder Hooda met the party’s interim president Sonia Gandhi in Delhi on Friday, ahead of the presidential election. “In our meeting today, we spoke about the party and how to strengthen it. She said she has a neutral stand regarding the Congress president election,” Hooda told news agency ANI.

• Veteran Congress leader and Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh on Friday said he was not interested in becoming the party chief. Singh said, “I have already said and I am reiterating that I am not interested in becoming the party’s national president.” Asked who will replace Gehlot as CM of Rajasthan in case he becomes party president, Singh refused to comment saying, “I am not a public representative from Rajasthan.”

• Congress leader and Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot on Friday said that he had Rahul Gandhi had told him that no one from the Gandhi family will be up for the post. “It’s decided now that I will contest, the date of nomination will be decided. if other Congress leaders are also contesting that’s fine, we all will work to make Congress strong,” he said. When asked about who would replace him as CM if he was elected party president, Gehlot said the party high command and Sonia Gandhi would make that decision.

• Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, talking about the ‘one man one post’ debate over a leader assuming the Congress president post, said the rules applied to all, and that even Kamal Nath had resigned in following them. He did not talk much about his own nomination, asking media to ‘wait till September 30’.

Will Support Pilot as CM: Rajasthan Minister: Rajasthan minister Rajendra Gudha, one of the six BSP turned Congress MLAs, on Thursday said they would not oppose if Sachin Pilot is made the chief minister in case Ashok Gehlot becomes the party president and quits the CM post. Gudha, who is Minister of State for Panchayati Raj and Rural Development and considered close to Gehlot, cleared his stand that he is not with any face and said the six MLAs would support anyone whom the party high command chooses to run the government. “We are with the decision of the party leadership. Whatever decision Sonia ji, Rahul ji and Priyanka ji take, we all six will welcome that. We are with the party,” Gudha told reporters here. “Even if Bharosi Lal ji is made (CM) by Sonia ji, we are with him,” he said when asked whether he would oppose if Sachin Pilot is made the CM. Bharosi Lal is a Congress MLA. The BSP turncoats had supported Gehlot during political crisis in July 2020 after the then deputy CM Sachin Pilot revolted against the Rajasthan CM.

Gourav Vallabh Supports Gehlot, Bashes Tharoor: Congress leader Gourav Vallabh on Thursday hit out at Shashi Tharoor over his probable AICC president poll bid, saying his “only major contribution” to the party was to send letters to Sonia Gandhi when she was hospitalised. In the first indicator of leaders taking sides in the upcoming contest for the top post, Vallabh also voiced support for another likely contender, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who many believe has the backing of the current leadership. However, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is learnt to have told both Gehlot and Tharoor that she would remain “neutral” in the polls. “The choice is very simple and clear,” said Vallabh on Twitter.

In a late night tweet, Tharoor posted former US president Theodore Roosevelt’s famous speech known as “The Man in the Arena”. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat,” Roosevelt said in the speech posted by Tharoor.

Congress Sets Ball Rolling: The Congress on Thursday set the ball rolling for electing its chief by issuing a notification and a contest for the top party post appeared imminent after a gap of over two decades with senior leaders Ashok Gehlot and Shashi Tharoor looking set for an electoral face-off. In comments seen as yet another indication that he may not contest, Rahul Gandhi told those willing to run for the party presidency that the post was not just organisational but also “ideological” and that the person occupying it must remember that it represents a belief system. Gandhi also batted for the “one-man, one-post” concept in line with the Chintan Shivir reforms earlier this year. His assertion came a day after Gehlot hinted that he would like to continue as the chief minister even while assuming the post of party president. Gandhi’s definitive remark indicated that Gehlot may have to quit as chief minister if he takes on the mantle of party president but suspense persisted over whether he would get a person of his choice to helm the Rajasthan government, or the post would go to his bete noire Sachin Pilot.

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With inputs from PTI

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