It’s final: Gandhi family ‘pick’ Ashok Gehlot to file nomination for Congress President

Ashok Gehlot

It is now certain: Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot will be the candidate on behalf of the Gandhi family for the Congress President post. He is likely to file his papers any time during the upcoming Navratra festival. If sources are to be believed the exact date for filing papers will be announced after Gehlot’s Delhi visit.
The Rajasthan CM will meet Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary K.C. Venugopal during his upcoming visit to Delhi. Indications are that Gehlot is coming to Delhi on Wednesday. Gehlot is also likely to meet Rahul as well if the Gandhi scion is available in the national capital. Rahul is away for ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’. If that does not happen, Gehlot may meet him in Kerala later.
AICC general secretary in charge of organisation, K.C. Venugopal, has also already had a meeting with Sonia during which the upcoming presidential poll was discussed.
Gehlot’s victory is a foregone conclusion as he is a nominee of the Gandhi family. So, it is certain that Gehlot will be the next Congress President. Shashi Tharoor is also likely to file nomination as a second candidate. However, his candidature will just be a formality. There is least possibility of Tharoor getting support from even his home state Kerala. Most of the PCC delegates from all the states including Kerala are said to be the supporters of the Gandhi family. So there is hardly any doubt about Gehlot’s victory.
Significantly, a non-Gandhi leader will be the Congress chief after a long gap of 22 years once Gehlot is elected. This will also be the first time that a non-Gandhi leader will be elected to this post. Gehlot’s selection as Congress president will impact the Congress’ politics in Rajasthan.
Indications are that Gehlot will stay on as Chief Minister of Rajasthan. There are several reasons for this.
First, Gehlot will continue to get the protocols of the CM office like Narendra Modi had gotin 2014. Modi was the Prime Ministerial candidate while holding chief minister’s post during the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Second, protecting the Congress government from destabilising efforts in Rajasthan is of paramount importance for the party.
Third, the Congress’ goal is to ensure that the party retains power in Rajasthan after next year’s elections. Gehlot quitting as CM will not augur well for the party given the prevailing situation. The BJP is already waiting in wings to allegedly exploit the situation once Gehlot makes a departure from state politics. To recall, there were bids to topple the government over two years ago in Jaipur, but Gehlot had managed to save the government then.  Sachin Pilot had led the rebellion following which he was sacked as PCC chief. Gehlot had managed to keep all independent and Congress MLAs together that time. Even today, of all 126 MLAs who are with the government, only three or four legislators are with the Sachin Pilot faction. The evidence exposing the efforts to topple the government had been sent to the Gandhi family. After this, the rebel MLAs were adjusted in the organisation but Pilot was not given any post. 
Ever since Gehlot’s name cropped up for Congress president post, the Pilot camp started planting reports projecting the former Deputy CM as a replacement of Gehlot. BJP is aware that Pilot will not be elevate das CM. If Gehlot quits as CM after becoming Congress president in Delhi then tussle for the post will intensify. The saffron party will try to cash in on the situation. If the Congress government gets destabilised in a big state like Rajasthan, it will have its repercussions across the party organisation. The high command will not tolerate such an unseemly situation in the state of the ‘Congress President’. Given all this, Gehlot will in all likelihood be retaining the state responsibility along with holding the Congress president post.