Ashok Gehlot, the frontrunner for Congress president, said today that Rahul Gandhi has made it clear that no one from the Gandhi family should become the party chief.
The Rajasthan Chief Minister met with Rahul Gandhi in Kerala, where he joined his “Bharat Jodo Yatra” last evening.
“I requested him multiple times to accept everyone’s wish that he returns as Congress President. He told me he had decided that no one from the Gandhi family should become the next chief,” Mr Gehlot told reporters.
“Rahul ji told me ‘I know they want me to be chief and I respect their wish, but I have decided, for a reason, that a non-Gandhi should be Congress president’,” he added.
Mr Gehlot is believed to be the Gandhis’ leading choice for the role as the Congress prepares for its first non-Gandhi chief in over 20 years.
The 71-year-old Congress veteran has been holding out, apparently because he is reluctant to give up the role of Chief Minister of Rajasthan.
He had suggested that he could handle both responsibilities, but Rahul Gandhi yesterday shot it down.
“We have made a commitment in Udaipur, I expect that the commitment will be maintained,” Rahul Gandhi told reporters yesterday on the “one person, one post” rule adopted by the Congress earlier this year.
The Gandhis, distancing themselves from the top post amid massive churning within and questions on their leadership following serial election defeats, have also refused to endorse any candidate.
With the Gandhis sitting it out this time, more and more Congress names are emerging as candidates to succeed Sonia Gandhi, the party’s longest-serving party president.
Mr Gehlot is likely to file his nomination papers on Monday. Congress MP Shashi Tharoor was the first to declare his intention to run for president and he sought a go-ahead from Sonia Gandhi early.
Former Union Minister Manish Tewari and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Ministers Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh are also likely to join the unprecedented Congress contest.
Aspirants can put up their names till September 30. The election will be held on October 17 and the Congress will get its new chief two days later.