The Congress will launch its mega election for party president, the first in over 20 years, on Thursday and Shashi Tharoor is set to run after a no-objection from Sonia Gandhi. Ashok Gehlot, the Chief Minister of Rajasthan, is tipped to be his rival, but he is reportedly not ready.
Sources close to Ashok Gehlot say he may file his papers next Monday to run for the October 17 election but is taking a week to try and persuade Rahul Gandhi to return as chief.
Rahul Gandhi is the Chief Minister’s “first choice” for the top party post, the sources say. He is “trying to persuade Rahul Gandhi” to contest before he has to file his own nomination papers, they say.
Ashok Gehlot, a Congress veteran who has weathered many a threat including an alleged BJP “Operation Lotus” and a rebellion, has repeatedly been asked by Sonia Gandhi to take charge of the party.
But he is reportedly concerned about ceding the Chief Minister’s job to his rival Sachin Pilot, sources say.
Sachin Pilot’s arrival in Delhi yesterday triggered speculation that he may be closer to getting what he has wanted for years – a shot at being Chief Minister of Rajasthan, at least for a year before the state votes for a new government.
But Mr Gehlot, a powerful leader who has prevailed whenever Sachin Pilot has asked for more, is holding out. Sources say he wants a loyalist to rule as his proxy. If not that, he may insist on keeping both roles by taking over as working president of the Congress.
A section in the Congress, however, believes that Sachin Pilot should be given a chance before the Rajasthan election.
The Congress will accept nominations till September 30. The elections for Congress president, if needed (if there are more than one candidate), will be held on October 17. The results will be declared on October 19.