New Delhi, September 22
As the process for the election of a new Congress president kicked off on Thursday with the party’s central election authority issuing a poll notification, Rahul Gandhi almost ruled himself out of the contest and signalled to Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot that the ‘one person, one post’ rule would need to be honoured.
Kharge, Tewari in race?
- Mallikarjun Kharge’s presence in Kochi sparks talk of whether he could enter the race
- Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari learnt to be weighing options too
- Cong’s election authority issues notification for party president’s poll
Rahul to take day’s break, meet Sonia in Delhi today
“What we decided in Udaipur is a commitment of the Congress. I expect that commitment will be maintained,” Rahul said in Kochi where Gehlot joined him in the ongoing ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’, a day after insisting that the rule did not apply to a CM who was contesting an internal election. Gehlot today, however, said a Congress president “would naturally have to work full time for the party and would not be able to do justice to two posts”.
Although some Congress leaders read Gehlot’s remarks as an indication that he was willing to give up the CM’s post, others said it was too early to draw conclusions as the party would need a strong hand in Rajasthan, which goes to the polls in 2023. “Everything will depend on the Congress plan to keep the party united in Rajasthan where we have already suffered one revolt,” Gehlot said.
Meanwhile, the presence of Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge in Kochi yesterday and partly today sparked talks on whether the veteran could join the race. Interestingly, three Congress presidential probables were in Kochi between Wednesday and Thursday — Gehlot, former Madhya Pradesh CM Digvijay Singh and Kharge.
A senior AICC functionary dismissed the possibility of Kharge filing papers and veered towards Gehlot as nominations begin from September 24 to 30 followed by scrutiny on October 1, withdrawal until October 8, election on October 17 and results on October 19.
Anandpur Sahib MP Manish Tewari was also learnt to be evaluating his chances with the field appearing wide open for anyone desirous of fighting the election — a first in 22 years.
Rahul threw the strongest hint yet that he would not run for the post and offered his advice to contestants saying, “You are taking on a position, which is historic, and a position which defines and has defined a particular view of India. The Congress president is not just an organisational post, but an ideological post, a belief system. So my advice would be whoever becomes Congress president should remember he represents a set of ideas, a belief system and a vision of India.”
Rahul will meet his mother Sonia Gandhi in New Delhi on Friday. The two are likely to discuss the Congress presidential elections having clarified to candidates that they won’t even sign anyone’s forms.
Rahul today said any Congress leader who wanted to fight the party chief’s election had the right to dos so. “Everyone asks when the Congress president’s election will take place and who will fight. But they do not ask this of the BJP, RSS, communists, SP, BSP. I am saying this with a significant degree of pride because we are the only political party in the country that does this,” he said.