Ashok Gehlot is set to meet with Sonia Gandhi this evening amid suspense over whether he will run for Congress president.
Ahead of the meeting, the Rajasthan Chief Minister met with his closest aides, who indicated that he is unlikely to give up his Rajasthan role anytime soon.
“The Congress will work under Ashok Gehlot’s leadership. We did not discuss his resignation. He is not resigning today, he will not resign in future,” said state minister Pratap Singh Kachariyawas.
Another minister, Vishvendra Singh, said: “Mr Gehlot will complete his five years in Rajasthan.”
Since the Congress doesn’t allow anyone to hold two posts, many see these comments as a hint that Mr Gehlot does not want to run for party president.
Rahul Gandhi last week made it clear that Mr Gehlot cannot play a double role, in line with the Congress’s “one person, one post” policy.
Mr Gehlot, with much reluctance, agreed to contest the party president election, but his refusal to quit as Rajasthan Chief Minister is at the core of the current crisis in the Congress.
On Sunday, over 90 MLAs loyal to Mr Gehlot threatened mass resignation over reports that if he moved on to a national role, his replacement in Rajasthan would be his bitter rival Sachin Pilot.
In open defiance of the Gandhis, the MLAs laid out conditions that included choosing a new Chief Minister only after the Congress president election. If Mr Gehlot becomes Congress chief, that will constitute conflict of interest as he will have empowered himself to pick his own successor in Rajasthan.
The rebellion deeply embarrassed the Congress in the middle of Rahul Gandhi’s “Bharat Jodo Yatra”. The Gandhis were said to be furious, and there was strong speculation that Mr Gehlot is out of the race for party chief.
But top party sources said Mr Gehlot is “still in contention for the post of Congress president and not ruled out”.
Last evening, Congress leaders Ambika Soni and Anand Sharma, after a meeting with Sonia Gandhi, spoke with the Chief Minister to “resolve the crisis that has been created”.
Mr Gehlot denied any part in the revolt, citing his visit to a shrine near the India-Pakistan border that morning where there was no phone reception. “Nothing is in my hands. The MLAs are angry,” he told the central leadership.
Mr Gehlot also apologised but the Congress leadership was said to have taken a “serious view” of indiscipline by one of its senior most leaders.
Sachin Pilot, whose supporters are far outnumbered by Mr Gehlot’s, is in Delhi.
The Congress is prepping for its first non-Gandhi president after more than two decades. All three Gandhis will stay out of the October 17 election. So far, Shashi Tharoor has called for nomination papers. There are reports that Digvijaya Singh may join the contest.